Taking their games to the next level | TheUnion.com

Taking their games to the next level

The Union StaffDolan
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So what’s it like to be on the inside of the high-stakes recruiting game played by major university athletic departments?

Ask Phil Cosenza or Joe Dolan.

The former Nevada Union football teammates have been there and apparently are now glad to be able to say “done that.”

“It’s good to have it behind me now,” said Dolan, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 195-pound wide receiver. “It wasn’t really a thing of who I was looking at. It was more like who was looking at me.”

Despite getting a hard look from nearby UC-Davis, Dolan will head east to the Ivy League, where he’ll wear the black and orange of the Princeton Tigers next fall.

Cosenza says come Feb. 5, he’ll sign a national letter of intent to play football for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He’s already informed the coach of the Runnin’ Rebels of his intentions.

“I’ve made a verbal commitment,” said Cosenza, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 260-pound tight end. “I shook John Robinson’s hand and told him I was going to play football for him.”

Yes, that John Robinson.

Cosenza’s future coach led the USC Trojans to the 1978 National Championship. He also led the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams to a pair of NFC Championships prior to returning to the USC sidelines in 1993. When Cosenza arrives next fall, it will be Robinson’s fifth year in Vegas. Last season, UNLV went 5-7 overall and 3-4 in the Mountain West conference.

“My lifelong goal has been to go to college and play football, and one day get in the (NFL),” Cosenza said. “It will be hard, but now I’m getting my education paid for, and it’s like they’re giving me money for playing football.”

Cosenza caught six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown for the Miners in 2002. Primarily positioned as a bruising blocker in the NU wing-T, Cosenza said there’s more to the Runnin’ Rebels’ offense than the run. And after making up his mind three weeks ago following the only official visit he made to a college campus, he wants to make an immediate impact.

“My goal is to start as a true freshman,” Cosenza said. “I’ve told them I pretty much want to be a four-year starter. Basically that’s up to me right now, working in the off-season.”

Dolan doesn’t have to wait for national signing day in February to make his intention official, but he did have to be accepted academically by Princeton before he could fasten the chinstrap of a Tiger helmet. And while that might detour some athletes from playing in the Ivy League, Dolan’s 4.3 grade point average last semester shows he should fit in nicely.

“I just wanted to make sure wherever I went I would get a good education,” Dolan said. “What I liked about Princeton is that it’s an undergrad-focused university. There are Nobel Prize winners teaching you as a freshman. They want (athletes) that will work hard and give them the best of both worlds on that campus.”

Dolan gave the Miners a lot of offense in 2002, catching a team-high 39 passes for 929 yards and 13 touchdowns. He expects to either line up at wide out or flanker for Roger Hughes’ Tigers next year. In 2002 – his fourth year at Princeton – Hughes led the school to its first winning season (6-5) since 1997.

The Tigers pulled out all the stops when Dolan visited the campus.

“Princeton really separated themselves, even though I’d already committed,” he said. “They have a new stadium that is really nice, and we went out there at night, and they turned about half the lights on. Then they put on this glory type of music and flashed all the recruits’ names on the scoreboard. It kind of gave me chills. It was very exciting.”

Dolan said he didn’t get there alone, though.

“You know, I’ve had great parental support and my family has helped me a lot,” he said. “And the coaching staff at NU, they want their players to be better people in life before they are better players on the field.

“That’s what made me succeed.”

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