McDonogh's Thurgood (T.C.) Cosby Jr. said he discovered his football legacy by accident.
"My dad and I were walking through a mall one day when I was about 10, and this guy comes up and starts talking about how great of a football player my dad was," said Cosby, 17, an Ashburton-area resident who found out that his father had played professionally for a few years.
The elder Cosby, 54, starred as a running back-linebacker at City College in the early 1960s, helping build a near four-year winning streak under then-coach George Young (now vice president of the New York Giants).
The younger Cosby said he "never knew much about Dad's career because he's not the type to walk around bragging about it."
"I never really talked about my sports life with him because I didn't want him always comparing himself to me," said Thurgood Sr., a federal government employee who moonlights as a high school football official, scheduling the latter work around his son's games. "I wouldn't even let him play football until seventh grade."
But now the elder Cosby can brag about his son, a linebacker at McDonogh whose academic and athletic abilities have helped earn him a full football scholarship to No. 2-ranked Penn State.
Cosby, ranked 56th among the top 100 linebacker recruits by The National Recruiting Advisor, turned down full scholarship offers from third-ranked Virginia Tech, Maryland, Boston College, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Temple.
"I think T.C.'s a perfect Penn State kid," said McDonogh coach Dom Damico.
"You won't see most kids they have jump out at you, style-wise, but they win at Penn State with solid character players who make good decisions.
"T.C. displays maturity and responsibility when he's out there, and I think [Joe] Paterno recruits that type of kid."
With Cosby in the lineup, sixth-ranked McDonogh has won three straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference titles, including a 21-game winning streak against league rivals, including 8-0 this year.
Cosby has been the Eagles' No. 1 tackler for all of his three seasons as a starter, and has had six of his 20 career sacks, along with two of his 12 career interceptions, this year. He has returned four career interceptions for scores, and recovered six of his 12 caused fumbles in that span.
A 3.0 student with an 1,190 SAT score, Cosby's skills aren't limited to football: He's been a key member of the Eagles' three straight championship basketball teams, and was a member of last year's A Conference champion lacrosse team.
"My father always taught me what separates most people from being successful, and that's confidence, not cockiness," said T.C. Cosby, whose father and mother, Elizabeth, have missed a total of three of his games between them. "That's something that he instilled in me at a very early age."
Cosby made the most telling impression on Penn State linebackers coach Larry Johnson with his speed (a 4.6-second 40-yard dash), dimensions (6 feet 2, 225 pounds) and strength (a 335-pound bench press) at a summer combine in State College.
Cosby said he was sold on the Nittany Lions during an unofficial visit in July, and after a 30-minute visit between his parents and head coach Joe Paterno, whom he called "a living legend."
Johnson told Cosby: "If you start leaning toward another school, coach Paterno's going to come to your house and make sure you come to Penn State."
"He [Paterno] reminded of my grandfather, who recently passed away, in how straightforward he was," Cosby said.
"He talked about the program's graduation rate for football players, helping you grow into a man over four years. When he was done, it was like we had known him all of our lives."
Cosby joins a talented corps of linebacker recruits who have orally committed to play for the Nittany Lions, four of whom are from football-rich Pennsylvania.
The Penn State coaching staff "said my size is perfect for what they want," he said.
"Speed dominates today's game more, and some guys come in too big, anyway," Cosby added. "Besides, adding 10 or 15 pounds, that's just a month in the weight room."