Today is a perfect day to celebrate the Happy Birthday of a Michigan Man Joe Cocozzo. According to the 1991 Michigan Media Guide, Joseph T. “Joe” Cocozzo was born on this day near at Mechanicville, New York. He grew up in Mechanicville and became a BIG football star. As in about 6’ 4” and 300-pounds of star football player! Joe Cocozzo could have played just about anywhere he wanted to play in college, but he chose to play for Bo Schembechler’s Michigan Wolverines!
(Note - Joe Cocozzo (#68) is shown above with the 1992 Big Ten Champion Michigan Wolverine Football team. He is seated in the second row - 8th man from the right. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Joe was recruited to play offensive line at Michigan and that’s exactly what he did! As was the case with many of Bo’s lineman, Joe was red-shirted in his first season so he could get stronger and learn Michigan’s blocking schemes. Oh, by the way, Michigan had some All-Americans and All-Big Ten guys playing ahead of him. So, Joe’s time would have to wait for one more year.
Joe Cocozzo played a lot of football for Bo in 1989. He started two games at guard and earned his first letter on Bo’s last team. The Wolverines ended the season with a final record of 10 wins and 2 losses. They gave Bo his thirteenth Big Ten Title with a perfect record of 8-0-0.
Even though Bo was gone, the 1990 season worked out well for Cocozzo, Coach Gary Moeller and the Wolverines. Joe started eight games at guard and he earned his second varsity letter. Michigan’s overall slipped a little to 9 wins and 3 losses. However, the Wolverines earned at least a share of the Big Ten championship for the third consecutive season with a record of 6-2-0 in Big Ten play.
Joe Cocozzo returned for his third year of play in 1991. He was now the “man” at right guard. Joe started all twelve games that season and earned his third varsity letter. The Wolverines improved their record to 10 wins and 2 losses. Michigan posted a perfect Big Ten record of 8-0-0 and gave Gary Moeller his first outright Big Ten Title and second in a row.
Cocozzo’s final season (1992) turned out to be an outstanding year for him and his teammates. Joe started twelve more games and earned his fourth varsity letter. He also earned All-Big Ten and All-American honors for his stellar play. The Wolverines finished the year with a record of 9-0-3. Their conference record of 6 wins, 0 losses and 2 ties earned them a second straight conference championship.
So, Joe Cocozzo is one of a very few Michigan Men who can say he was part of five Big Ten Championship teams! Wow – that sounds amazing, especially since the Wolverines haven’t won any since 2004. Ouch!
Joe Cocozzo was a superb player on some great Michigan teams. He left Ann Arbor with lots of individual and team achievements. Not too many players enjoyed the success that Joe did at Michigan. Joe went on to a successful career in the NFL. Check out the Wikipedia article linked below.
So, today is a good day to wish Joe Cocozzo a very “Happy Birthday” and appreciate his contributions to the great history of Michigan Football! Go Blue!
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