If former Barberton High School football player John Cominsky isn’t careful, he’s going to move from hero to legend in his hometown before his first regular-season NFL game.

The Atlanta Falcons rookie, a fourth-round pick in this year's NFL Draft, had an impressive game in his first outing as a pro in Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Even though the Falcons lost 14-10 to the Denver Broncos, Cominsky showed he belonged at football's highest level.

In front of about 50 family members and friends, the defensive end recorded a sack and a fumble recovery. It was just a preseason game, but it was a little more than 20 miles from the Magic City, and the hometown was watching.

"The first NFL game, for anybody, that is when your dreams are made," Cominsky said Friday. "You wait your whole life for one moment, and then on top of that I was pretty much in my own backyard so I had all kinds of people there for me."

Count sixth-year Barberton High School coach Tony Gotto as one of those.

Gotto missed coaching Cominsky by a year, but led the Magics football program to the playoffs last year after a perfect regular season.

This summer, Gotto ran a youth football camp in Barberton with the former Magics standout.

"When he knew he was getting drafted, he came to me and said, ‘If it works out and I get drafted I’d really like to run a camp,’ " Gotto said.

Since the Magics coach already had one in the works, he and Cominsky joined forces.

"Most pro guys show up and talk to the kids," Gotto said. "He ran drills."

Gotto said he coached against Cominsky in a couple of games and was beaten by him in one.

In that game, when Gotto coached at Kenmore, Cominsky played quarterback for the Magics. Gotto said he wasn’t too concerned about Cominsky’s passing.

"We were worried about his running skills," Gotto said. "He had some huge runs, some touchdown runs."

Gotto's team lost by a touchdown.

At the camp, Cominsky connected with the young players and expressed a desire to do a camp next year.

"He’s ready to start his life and do the right things and give back to a program that wasn’t successful when he played," Gotto said. "There’s a message he brought to the young people: When you do something, do it to your full potential."

On July 8, Barberton City Council commended Cominsky for his athletic and academic achievements at the University of Charleston in West Virginia, where he converted into a defensive lineman. He became a star at the university and carried a 3.9 GPA in a two science majors.

Barberton Councilwoman Nina Angeloff watched Thursday’s game and was impressed by what she saw.

She’s been a big Barberton sports fan for years, and her son played sports in high school and was friends with fellow student Gotto. Now, her grandson Connor Angeloff plays center for the team and worked with Cominsky at Gotto’s football camp.

"The boys involved in that minicamp loved him," Angeloff said.

At one point, Cominsky remembered Connor’s name and called out to him. That was enough to create a fervent fan.

"My grandson Connor was very impressed," she said.

Even folks who don’t follow sports closely are rooting for some magic from the Falcons rookie.

Councilwoman Shannon Wokojance didn’t watch the Hall of Fame Game, but saw a posting on social media about Cominsky’s performance. She said Cominsky's dedication to sports and education convinced her that he deserved the recognition.

"The thing that impressed me most about him is his high grades," Wokojance said. "He chose science as majors ... to me, that’s amazing."

Angeloff said Cominsky’s personal drive and work ethic are the right message to send to the children of Barberton.

"He is very, very dedicated to that sport and it will pay him back," Angeloff said. "Study, get good grades, work at what you want to do ...  dreams do come true."

Cominsky would agree.

"It was a dream come true and it was super cool," he said. "I had a lot of support there. It was awesome."

 

Michael Beaven contributed to this story. Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or emailed at aashworth@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconjournal.