Visit: Versatile LaCosse Battled Kaminsky

Illinois tight end Matt LaCosse had a relatively quiet career but impressed at his pro day with his combination of size and athleticism. He might be a good fit in a Green Bay offense that requires versatility from its tight ends.

Photo by Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY

Long before Illinois tight end Matt LaCosse had a predraft visit with the Green Bay Packers, he was battling Frank Kaminsky in basketball at Naperville (Ill.) North High School.

Neither sport, however, was LaCosse’s first love.

“Actually, all the way through high school, I thought I was going to be a baseball player,” LaCosse said on Monday. “I was a really tall and lanky kid — I was about 160 pounds as a freshman. I pitched pretty well for my sophomore team and varsity team, so I always thought I was going to be a baseball player. Then I got bigger and colleges started calling and I thought it’d be pretty cool to play college football.”

In four seasons at Illinois, LaCosse caught 38 passes for 397 yards and six touchdowns. Most of that production came during his final two seasons, including his 14 grabs for 117 yards and three touchdowns as a senior.

Versatility is LaCosse’s calling guard, which is why he’d potentially be a good fit in the Packers’ offensive scheme.

“At Illinois, I was asked to do many things,” he said. “I was asked to play wide receiver, in the slot, in the backfield, on the ball. I think Green Bay would be a perfect fit for me. Watching film with (tight ends) coach (Jerry) Fontenot, the different ways that they use their tight ends definitely intrigued me.”

LaCosse, a two-year starter, wasn’t invited to the Scouting Combine, which made his pro day critical. At 6-foot-6 and 257 pounds, he ran his 40 in an impressive 4.71 seconds.

“It was very intimidating seeing all the scouts there but I was happy that I was able to do as good as I did,” he said. “If you’re not nervous, then you shouldn’t be in the sport. Being nervous just means that you care a lot. They weren’t necessarily bad nerves. They were more like, ‘I’m excited. I want to do well. I want to prosper in the NFL. I love the sport.’ It was those kind of nerves. Not like, ‘Oh, crap, I hope I don’t mess up’ nerves.”

LaCosse should be used to performing in big moments. Before there was the weekly grind of the Big Ten schedule, there were basketball matchups with Kaminsky, who was the Naismith Player of the Year in leading Wisconsin to the Final Four.

“Me and Frank go way back,” LaCosse said. “We were on the same traveling team from third grade through eighth grade. Our teams happened to play each other — his high school’s about 5, 10 minutes away from mine. We played each other all through high school. I had some good matchups but he’s a terrific player and he’s about to make a lot of money in the NBA.”

One of those terrific matchups came during their high school senior seasons, when Naperville North faced Kaminsky’s top-ranked Benet Academy for a regional championship.

“They were a very, very talented basketball team and we were just a bunch of average basketball players,” LaCosse recalled. “I happened to have a really good game against them and hit a last-second 3 to send us into the first overtime and did the same thing to send us into our second overtime. Unfortunately, they were too good for us and ended up winning, but it was definitely a very good game.”

In high school, LaCosse played quarterback, earning all-state honors as a senior.

“I played it all four years in high school,” he said. “My high school offense, we were in shotgun and all we did was run the read-option every play. I ran for twice as many yards as I threw for. When college scouts looked at my film, I guess they said, ‘Here’s a big kid who runs.’ Naturally, they thought tight end.”

LaCosse might not get drafted but he’s certainly opened the eyes of scouts with his blend of size and athleticism. He’s had a few visits, including one to Green Bay on Thursday and Friday. The Packers have openings at tight end — two players on last year’s opening roster, Ryan Taylor and Brandon Bostick, are no longer on the roster.

“It was awesome,” he said of his visit. “The people of Green Bay are so friendly. I just went to Panera to get a sandwich and they are some of the friendliest people I’ve been around. And the stadium — it was my first time ever at Lambeau Field and the facilities are unbelievable. The coaching staff was unbelievably helpful and were genuinely good people.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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