Brad Cousino Miami ’73 hoped that scoring a touchdown would protect him from abuse today. His parents embraced and celebrated from the sidelines, sharing high fives with surrounding parents, the biggest fans of their budding football star son while in public. But in his book, “Unwanted, Unworthy, UNSHACKLED,” Brad describes the terror no one could see through the windows of the Cousino bungalow. Beatings and solitary confinement were frequent throughout Brad’s childhood, shaping his understanding of family through a lens of trauma.
Football was a lot of things to Brad — an escape from his reality, a fleeting moment of parental approval, an outlet for his own frustrations and anger, and soon, a pathway to college.
Brad recognized his best chance at college would be through an athletic scholarship. Due to his smaller stature, Brad was overlooked by every college football program even after making the first-team All-League, All-City, All-District, and All-Regional on offense and defense in high school. Rather than throwing in the towel, Brad acted, mailing dozens of packets out with letters and highlight reels, begging for the opportunity to prove himself on the field.
Finally, the call came. Brad earned a walk-on spot on Miami University’s football team.
With so much of his life revolving around football, Brad decided to explore Greek life at Miami. He attended a few Rush events, but kept hearing the same thing, ‘Hell Week’. The concept of acceptance through physical and mental torment was inconceivable to Brad. He couldn’t imagine putting himself in the line of more trauma. He’d already lived through so much.
Then, he heard of a new fraternity with an ambitious and positive spin on hell week from a fellow football walk-on, Paul Apyan Miami ’72.
A 1975 issue of The Shield referenced the young chapter: “colony members believed that ‘Hell Week’s’ hazing and general beratement of pledges was detrimental and immature. As an alternative, they introduced the concept of ‘Help Week,’ which emphasized the positive approach of this chapter. They felt that it was the responsibility of the chapter to do something FOR a pledge, not something TO him. Stressed during the first pledge program were the ideals of good scholarship, university involvement and community service…”
“They weren’t interested in tearing someone down. They wanted to build people up. They went out looking for projects to help others on campus and in the community,” Brad said with a smile.
Ohio Lambda offered Brad a community outside of the locker room to build healthy, lasting relationships. His football schedule and scholastic responsibilities kept Brad from living in the chapter house and fully participating in Fraternity happenings, but he made the most of the time he did have building the bonds of brotherhood.
“50 years later and we’re still friends. There’s still a group of guys that I can call at any given point in time and they’re there. They support me. That’s what matters.”
Because of his small size, Brad went undrafted following college, but he became the only rookie free agent to make an NFL team in 1975! He led the league in special teams’ plays. Brad played for the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers. Breaking the cycle of multi-generational abuse, Brad is the proud and loving father of four adult children and 11 grandchildren with his wife of 46 years, Tami Cousino, whom he met on a blind date at a Phi Psi event!
Brad shares his story with tens of thousands and consults with small to mid-sized companies using his team-oriented perspective. He published his harrowing memoir in November 2022. “Unwanted, Unworthy, UNSHACKLED” is available at Amazon.com and Barnes Noble.com. Brad credits Brother Apyan and his Big Brother, Larry Larson Miami ‘72 for helping frame his Phi Psi story within the publication.
Brad’s incredible experience of overcoming familial abuse is in preliminary discussions with three production companies to make his memoir into film.