|Miami LB Cook looking to make most of bonus year|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 06 August 2008 23:01|
Then he began experiencing real pain.
The Miami linebacker was supposed to be a leader and playmaker on last year's club, but instead, all he could do was stand helplessly on the sideline and watch the Hurricanes suffer one disappointment after another. He'd watch film and see plays he knew he could have made, ones that maybe, just maybe, would have kept the team from sliding all the way to 5-7.
``It wasn't about me, but seeing my teammates struggle in general,'' Cook said. ``That was tough.''
At long last, he's getting a chance to help those teammates out, one more time.
The NCAA said this spring that Cook merited a sixth year of eligibility, meaning the Hollywood, Fla., native will get to be on the field for a senior season after all. And his return would figure to greatly enhance Miami's chances of bouncing back from last year's struggles.
``I missed him last year,'' Miami linebackers coach Micheal Barrow said. ``Guys stepped up and did an excellent job, but Cook is an outstanding player. So I couldn't get him last year and thank God for this year. It's outstanding that he's able to come back because he's a guy who's like a Zach Thomas, a student of the game. He understands what's going on, he lines guys up and he makes that play. He makes things happen and he's a coach on the field.''
That's the only place Cook wants to coach from.
Last season, he became a defacto assistant coach of sorts. Some seniors - and Cook didn't know last fall that the NCAA would grant him a sixth year - in that position would have slunk their heads down and not wanted to be around their team. It would have been too painful to be reminded that their season was over.
Cook was different. He was in meetings. He'd be at practice. He'd pull guys aside and let them know what he saw.
``He was the guy,'' coach Randy Shannon said, ``that the young guys were going to.''
In short, Cook got to see the game from a far different perspective, and now believes that could aid him on the field.
``He's kind of a quiet leader,'' said junior linebacker Colin McCarthy, who'll likely spend most of this season lining up alongside Cook. ``He's not too vocal, but he leads by example. Him coming back, with the experiences he's had, the ups and downs, he's trying to push upon us how we need to work in order to get better. And with his leadership, being kind of like the coach he was last year, it helps us a lot and makes us feel a lot more comfortable.''
The best example of Cook's non-vocal ways of leadership can be seen on the Hurricanes' wrists this season.
He was the mastermind behind Miami's new orange-and-green rubbery wristbands, with the school's distinctive ``U'' logo on one side and the phrase ``No Excuses'' on the other. Cook ordered them for players, coaches and others inside the program, and gets asked all the time about people who want to buy them.
``We're motivating one another,'' Cook said. ``We're taking it upon ourselves. It's all on the players now.''
Cook's experience is valued (14 career starts, 34 appearances), but his skill can't be forgotten, either.
He scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery on the first play of Miami's game at Georgia Tech two seasons ago and has 109 tackles, including 64 in 2006, when he collected the fifth-most stops on the team.
Now healthier and smarter, Cook might be poised for a bigger year in 2008.
``You think you know a lot, but I learned a lot of little stuff that, wow, when you're playing you're not thinking about,'' Cook said. ``I picked up a lot of things. Being a coach, it's something I'm capable of doing, but I want to play.''