Jump to content

John Cominsky - from Baconators/Little Caesars/TacoHell to Seasoned Chicken, Broccoli and Rice


Recommended Posts


University of Charleston's John Cominsky grows into NFL draft hopeful

John Cominsky walked into the Little Caesars pizza shop for what had become a semi-weekly tradition. He’d hand the cashier five bucks and some change. The cashier would hand him a large Hot-N-Ready with pepperoni and cheese. If he picked up a couple extra hours working at the library that week, he might splurge on the supreme.

Cominsky would take that pizza back to his place, plop it down, lift the lid, grab a slice and get to work. The University of Charleston defensive end’s mission was to make that entire pizza disappear before he went to bed that night.

Gluttony never was the goal. Every calorie counted. That was evident the second he stepped on the scale at the NFL draft combine, one of a handful of Division II football players to earn an invitation. He tipped those scales at 286 pounds.

Related image


That’s pretty impressive for any Division II NFL prospect. Even more impressive for a guy who walked onto UC’s campus as a 215-pound option quarterback.

For Cominsky, every slice of pizza, peanut butter sandwich or trip to Taco Bell, every meal and every bite he took past the point of being full was part of the plan that led to this point. Sometime this weekend, Cominsky expects to hear his name announced in the NFL draft. If it is, he’ll be the first player in UC/Morris Harvey football history to earn that honor in 76 years.

“For this NFL stuff to roll around,” he said, “it’s extremely rewarding to know that, when I had my head down for all those years and long days and for those rewards to come around ... rewarding is the first word to come to me, but it’s deeper than that. It’s a deeper reward.”

Starting from scratch

The John Cominsky that walked into the draft combine looks nothing like the John Cominsky that tread UC’s campus for the first time. The Cominsky of five years ago was a receiver-turned-quarterback and defensive back for Barberton High, just outside of Akron, Ohio. He was a second-team all-district DB as a senior.

That’s a nice high school career for a guy whose career ends in high school, but it doesn’t send the recruiting websites into a frenzy. So the colleges, big or small, didn’t come calling. He ended up at Charleston, where he was offered $4,000 a year as a scholarship.

The coaches saw a high motor and a willingness to work. They also saw a body frame they knew could hold more than 215 pounds.

“A lot of it is the framework in general,” said Connor Freeland, UC’s spurs and strength and conditioning coach since 2015. “A lot of kids come in light and you’re hoping to put weight on. You don’t know really, because they’re long, lean and tall. But you could tell by [Cominsky’s] size that his body was built to hold more — his wide back, shoulders, his genetic makeup. That’s where you knew he could do it.”

That wasn’t anything Cominsky hadn’t heard before. It just wasn’t a priority since the Barberton Magics needed him under center and running the offense, not lining up on the edge trying to destroy somebody else’s. Still, others had seen the body he could have just from the size of his hands.

“When you’re sitting there with these kind of stringy arms and have a massive hand at the end of them, I’d hear it all the time, ‘Dude, you’ve not grown into your body yet,’ ” he said.

As soon as Cominsky became a Golden Eagle, his quarterbacking days were over. UC coaches saw him as a linebacker or a defensive end. They also saw a project. He wasn’t shedding offensive linemen at 215 pounds and, in his first year with the team, he didn’t.

“He was a good-looking kid,” UC coach Pat Kirkland said. “He was just skinny. You struggle to find length and height at Division II, and when they’re athletic kids that’s definitely what you want. You try to project. It’s not always going to work out, but with him, it obviously did and then some. We hit the home run and the lottery pick with that kid.”

Cominsky’s dad Steve remembers the phone calls he got from his son that first year at Charleston and the stories about how the seniors were overpowering him on the practice field. He could hear a shade of doubt in John’s voice, a question as to whether he was up for the challenge of college football.

But Steve Cominsky knew his son. He knew that any shred of doubt would get devoured by John’s determination.

“He just set it upon himself that he’s not going to be beaten by anybody,” Steve Cominsky said. “That’s pretty much his focus. That’s where I believe he gets his drive. He never liked to lose at anything.”

In order to win, though, Cominsky needed some meat on his bones and began the process of packing it on. That process, however, is a little different in the Division II ranks than it is with the major colleges.

The big boys have the resources to grow big boys. The first year the NCAA allowed athletic programs to spend for unlimited meals, the University of Alabama football team dropped more than $500,000 on food. They were putting together fajita bars and smoothie bars and handing players trail mix on their way to class.

In 2016, the median budget for a Division II athletic program that includes football was $6.6 million. What the Crimson Tide spent on food just for its football team could fund an entire sport at the Division II level. UC doesn’t have that kind of cash to spend on fajitas and smoothies.

So Cominsky needed bulk on a budget.

Peanut butter and pizza

When Freeland would go to strength and conditioning conferences, he always tries to bend the ears of strength coaches at the bigger schools, looking for advice and getting an idea of how it’s done at levels where money is less of an object.

When he would ask about the best ways for players to add mass, the advice boiled down to one simple question: How much is the kid eating?

“They said the number one issue they see, even with their kids, is that they don’t eat enough,” Freeland said. “They don’t get enough calories in their day. That’s when I kind of started taking the process of maybe it’s not what Muscle Milk should I get or what protein should we get. It’s just are you eating enough calories to make sure that you’re gaining weight, losing weight or maintaining what you have?

“For him, it was easy,” he continued. “It wasn’t rocket science. It was just, hey, you’ve got to eat four times, five times a day. You can’t be hungry. You have to have enough calories in your body that you’re not going to deficit.”

For Cominsky over the next few years, the question wasn’t what he was eating, rather what wasn’t he eating. The UC cafeteria was buffet-style, so he’d stock up on food there. He’d make three trips to Little Caesar’s a week, leaving with a large pizza each time. Taco Bell was just up the street. So was Wendy’s, where he’d chow down on Baconators, large fries and Frostys.

Chipotle was one of his favorites for two burrito bowls with extra rice. And there was always peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Just about everything got washed down with 2-percent milk.

The common thread throughout those menus was low cost and high calorie. A Baconator with fries and a drink runs about $9 but can be up to 1,600 calories. Each Little Caesar’s pizza is $5 and 2,200 calories.

“When we’d work out at home, I’d be buying him a half-gallon of chocolate milk after a workout,” Steve Cominsky said. “He’d suck it down like it was nothing.”

Eating became more than enjoyment. It became a job. And everything he started, he made sure to finish, even if his stomach tried to dissent. The pizza tasted great. Knocking out that entire large wasn’t so great.

“Things that people should enjoy became a chore for me to eat, for sure,” he said.

That chore paid off. In his second semester of his first year, he gained 20 pounds in eight weeks. It was a simple process. Pack on weight, then turn it into muscle. It was like sculpting a statue, packing on a bunch of clay, then taking some off in the creation of the final product.

At Charleston, he built his muscle in the winter with Olympic lifts like squats, cleans, deadlifts and bench presses, high weight and low reps. In the spring, he incorporated plyometrics and more powerful movements. He went from 215 pounds when he arrived at UC to 245 pounds, then to 275 pounds.

Those gains really were the only motivation Cominsky needed. UC defensive line coach Zach Santolla never had to crack a whip to get him to lift more or eat more.

“You don’t have to get on him,” Santolla said. “He’s going to go. I never once had to really yell at this guy. He’s a guy that understands. He understands what to do, and that made it easy on us.”

‘We need to sit down’

UC coaches had told Cominsky before his junior year that, because of the way he looked and the way he moved, NFL scouts would be interested. The NFL had been a dream, but not a major goal. He had turned into a great Division II football player, but those guys aren’t often drafted, lost in the shuffle as the players from the Alabamas, Michigans and Texases of the world hog the spotlight.

One burst of less than five seconds changed all that.


A couple of scouts were coming to Charleston to work out Cominsky and teammate Kahzin Daniels. In about two weeks, Cominsky needed to learn how to run a 40-yard dash for the most effective time. In those two weeks, he and his coaches worked on it three times.

Cominsky ran his first 40 for those two scouts. They both had stopwatches. Santolla had his own.

“At the time, I was standing behind them,” Santolla said. “I don’t want to be in their way. It’s their job. One guy turned around to me and said, ‘Hey man, um, when we’re done, we need to sit down.’ And I’m looking down at the watch and I’m like, ‘All right, what did you have?’ And he was like, ‘4.58.’ And I was like, ‘Ohhhh my god.’ I was thinking to myself, ohhh, this is big.”

At 287 pounds, Cominsky ran a time that running backs and linebackers were hitting at the NFL combine.

“I was biting my cheeks trying to act serious,” Cominsky said. “Nobody thought I was going to run that. I was hoping to run a 4.8. I looked up J.J. Watt and he ran a 4.9. I thought if I could break a 4.8, that would be impressive. And then I broke a 4.6.”

After that, Charleston’s practices became very popular for NFL scouts.

Cominsky backed up that time as a senior with a performance that earned him Mountain East Conference Defensive Player of the Year, recording 67 tackles and 161/2 for a loss. He was named a Don Hansen third-team All-American and was named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

But much of the NFL draft is a numbers game, from 40 times and broad jumps to hand width. Cominsky’s biggest opportunity to impress scouts came at the draft combine in Indianapolis. There, he measured 6-foot-5 and 286 pounds. Then he got to the 40-yard dash. His 4.69-second finish was second best among defensive linemen, faster than Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Alabama’s Quinnen Williams.

On his NFL.com draft evaluation, the first item listed under his strengths is “Looks the part.”

Image result for john cominsky

Preparing for the draft

Plenty has changed for Cominsky in the months between the end of his college career and the NFL draft. Now he has an agent and trainers. He spent his weeks before the combine working out in Naples, Florida. His diet has changed, too. Pizza and Baconators are out the window. A late meal now includes a chicken breast with maybe a sprinkling of seasoning, some white rice and some broccoli. Mornings bring egg whites, wheat toast and a cup of fruit. More resources means cleaner eating and Cominsky can tell the difference.

“The difference in feeling is how you wake up,” he said. “When you slam that pizza and a big thing of milk, that’s hard on your digestive system and slows down everything. So when you wake up in the morning, you’re sluggish. Even your skin’s not the same.

“Now when I wake up after eating clean ... I’m ready to go. My body’s running more efficiently.”

Workouts still include deadlifts and squats, but now they’re done on one leg to activate his core and strengthen his hips and glutes. He’s still a popular guy among NFL teams. Reports had him visiting the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns. Mock drafts have him going anywhere from the third round to the sixth. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. sees Cominsky coming off the board in the fourth or fifth round. Kiper sees him as a developmental player, but one with the tools to become an effective NFL player down the line.

“There’s a lot to work with there,” Kiper said. “When you get into the Day 3 area and you look at potential and where he could be down the road ... with the kind of talent and the kind of attitude he brings to the table, that’s when you start to think that’s a pick that would make sense and one where you would say, OK, there’s some excitement here.”

Steve Cominsky doesn’t know exactly how he’s going to handle the wait through the weekend, anticipating his son’s phone ringing with the voice of an NFL executive at the other end. That this is even a possibility, for a kid who went from a pretty good high school player to a dominant Division II star to an NFL hopeful, has him swelling with pride.

“It’s just surreal,” he said. “I’m just so happy for him. To put in that kind of work and dedication and be determined and focused when you don’t want to get up at 5 in the morning, it’s well worth what he’s done. I couldn’t be more proud for him. I’m speechless. I really am.”

No matter where he’s picked, if he’s taken in any of the draft’s seven rounds, he’ll be the first UC/Morris Harvey player taken since the New York Giants took guard Verlin Adams in the 31st round with the 291st overall pick in 1943. If Cominsky’s name is called, it not only would be the culmination of a lifelong dream, but the validation of every ounce of sweat and slice of pizza he put into the process, with an NFL body built at the University of Charleston.

“I had the goals to just be the best at Charleston,” Cominsky said. “How seriously I took that has pushed me to the NFL.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report

  • Grade: B+
  • Comment: "The Falcons allowed 124.9 rushing yards per game last season (eighth-worst in the NFL) and 4.9 yards per rush (fourth-worst). Neither figure is cataclysmically awful, but the Falcons defense excels at looking just good enough in each area to disguise how bad it really is. Cominsky was an option quarterback in high school, but at the University of Charleston, he moved to defensive end, bulked up from 215 pounds and worked his way up to Mountain East Defender of the Year honors. Cominsky performed well enough at the Senior Bowl to prove he belonged in an NFL camp. He runs well, has some agility, weighs 286 useful pounds and gets high marks for character/work habits. On the downside, he’s a raw pass-rusher who didn’t produce many sacks against low-level competition. But he will help the Falcons as a run defender right away."
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good story. Sounds exhausting really. 

This is why complaining about a lot of these draft picks is silly. Falcons coaching staff and scouts have these kids face to face and get to know these guys deeper than what we see on highlight videos. When you show what got you to that interview and how you're going to take it to the next level, it makes a difference. 

I've interviewed a lot of people for positions at my job. People that looked good on paper, but that's only like 20% of what I care about. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

39 minutes ago, ParanoidAndroid said:

Good story. Sounds exhausting really. 

This is why complaining about a lot of these draft picks is silly. Falcons coaching staff and scouts have these kids face to face and get to know these guys deeper than what we see on highlight videos. When you show what got you to that interview and how you're going to take it to the next level, it makes a difference. 

I've interviewed a lot of people for positions at my job. People that looked good on paper, but that's only like 20% of what I care about. 

Yes well said.   Also, most of us are basing opinions off very limited knowledge of these kids, some scouting reports written by folks that spend just a little more time than we do on it and highlight videos.

There is soooooo much more we don’t know.

We don’t know what we don’t know about these kids.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

13 hours ago, g-dawg said:

Yes well said.   Also, most of us are basing opinions off very limited knowledge of these kids, some scouting reports written by folks that spend just a little more time than we do on it and highlight videos.

There is soooooo much more we don’t know.

We don’t know what we don’t know about these kids.

There are hundreds of potential draft picks. There is literally no way anybody on a messageboard can know much about most of them. or any of them. It's just silly how bent out of shape some folks here get about a draft pick.

You spend a lot of time putting together mock drafts because you really enjoy them, I do too, I learn a lot from them.

So you know more than most of us here, and it's nothing compared to what the scouts and GMs  know. The draft pundits know a little more than us, but not really that much more.

Nobody here predicted the Falcons would take two Olinemen in the first round , everybody was surprised. Most of us were convinced that they'd take a DLineman with one of those picks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wanted Anthony Nelson this draft or a player like him. 

Nelson is more developed, but this guy is the same style (5T, athletic, can be reduced inside, pretty long arms)

And as mentioned here, you can't tell the want to people have showed, so he may have a lot more dog.  I'm excited about the pick.  You hope Quinn can teach him tons of long arm techniques to get some pass rush from him outside and in.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...