A home away from home

Not long ago, Vista Murrieta High School outside linebacker Tyler Cook visited BYU with his parents. They attended BYU's spring game and were able to tour the campus and get a feel for the surrounding community. The experience left a big impression upon the mind of an athlete who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just four years ago.

When it comes to football, Tyler Cook is becoming a national prospect. He has many colleges tracking and contacting him when they can. The 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound outside linebacker from Southern California keeps in regular contact with BYU as well.

"I'm always talking to Coach Mendenhall and Coach Poppinga on a regular basis," said Cook. "It's pretty much on a daily basis through email, Facebook or over the phone when they're able to call me or if I feel like calling them. It's just building that strong everyday relationship with them and the program that's very important for me."

Cook has established a strong relationship with outside linebacker coach Kelly Poppinga.

"Usually when we talk it's more on a personal level," Cook said. "We'll talk about everything like what we had for dinner, what we did that day, workouts, and things like that. Coach Poppinga is a player's coach and that's exactly what I'm looking for. He's such a cool guy on top of being a great coach."

Cook and his family ventured up to Provo, Utah to watch BYU's spring game. He and his parents were also able to see and experience what BYU has to offer.

"Just everything kind of clicked," said Cook. "The players, the area, the spiritual aspects of BYU just all clicked for me. When me and my family were there they made us feel really special. It was like home to us and that's how everyone made us feel there. It was like home away from home. It was also electrifying being in that stadium with all those people. Just to see all those people in attendance for a spring was incredible."

Cook felt very comfortable at BYU.

"What I saw is a place that resembled everything that you want to have," Cook said. "The coaches resemble what you want to have. The area is a place where you want to be at and the fans and general population are the type of people that you want to surround yourself with."

While on his visit, Cook met with BYU outside linebacker star Kyle Van Noy.

"I had a long talk with Kyle Van Noy, and we probably talked for about an hour and a half," said Cook. "I just straight asked him question after question. We also talked guy to guy about things and about football. It was actually really huge for me to talk to him. The way I see Kyle is someone who is the perfect example of being that right kind of example, ideal or role model of a BYU football player. He has a strong religious belief, he's kind to everyone no matter who they are, he's about others and not on himself, and is really someone who has accomplished so much but you would never know it. He's a real humble guy."

Rubbing shoulders with the quality of players that fill BYU's roster was an eye-opening experience for Cook. Being able to talk with Van Noy and gauge his character served to reinforce the notion that BYU football does more than just score touchdowns or sack quarterbacks.

"It just kind of opened up my eyes to what kind of a football team BYU has, the way they coach, and the way the try and bring up their players not just as football players but as men," said Cook. "Kyle is a great example of someone who was shaped by his influences and those positive experiences found at BYU and by the quality of coaches there. I hope to one day be on the same level as Kyle. It's actually a goal and a dream of mine for people to actually look at me the same way they look at him. I want to be that example and role model."

BYU's environment is attractive to Cook.

"It really does elevate BYU because you're surrounding yourself with other people with the same kind of morals or standards that make you want to be humble and use your talents for what's best," said Cook. "At other college some guy might think of how they're going to get their own, but a BYU football player, they're always wondering how they're going to help others and their teammates. It's more about others and not just themselves and that's what the difference in the focus is.

"I think that's a huge aspect for me because I saw that firsthand with my own team. We had all this talent in the world on our team. We had all the opportunity to win it all, but what we didn't have was that perspective of doing [and] winning for one another. It was all about the individual and it was really selfish. In the end we lost to a team that we shouldn't have lost to. As a team captain this year, I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen this year or ever again."

The road that led Cook to BYU and BYU to Cook began about four years when his family converted to the LDS faith.

"My family joined the Church before I did," recalled Cook. "First it was my mother and father who joined the Church a couple of years before I joined. Then my grandparents became interested and they found out that the Church was true. So, they joined the Church too. They gave me the option, so I did a lot of study on it. I saw the truth behind it and learned that the Church was true. After that I wanted to be a part of it."

Cook was particularly influenced by a proclamation issued by former LDS president Gordon B. Hinckley.

"The Family: A Proclamation to the World is what really opened up my eyes about the LDS faith," Cook recalled. "My family is a convert to the Church, and at the age of 13 I was converted into the Church. Even at that age I just felt that it was important. Most kids at a young age dream about becoming a musician or a pro athlete, but my true dream was to always have a family of my own with kids and a wife. When I saw that family proclamation to the world, it just made me know that, yeah, these people know what they're talking about. That's what helped me to take a serious look at the church and ultimately led to me becoming a member of it."

As for recruiting, Cook has 12 Division I scholarship offers on the table.

"I have offers from San Jose, BYU, Hawaii, Reno Nevada, Utah State, University of Arizona, Vanderbilt, Miami, Washington State, Colorado State, University of Colorado and Boise State."

This summer, Cook will shorten down his list before then making his final decision on a very important family day.

"I'll be making my decision on August 8th for my parents' wedding anniversary," said Cook. "I'll trim down the list to a top five. I want to see who is showing me the most interest, love, and what colleges I have the best chance to starting as a true freshman. I want to play all four years. I want to see what colleges I have the best chance of reaching my goals [at] and dreams of reaching the NFL. I'm still trying to see who has those things I'm looking for the most. Every college that is recruiting me has a major that I'm looking at, so it's going to come down to loyalty, coaching, and opportunity and helping me to reach my dreams and goals."

Like many other recruits, Cook plans on having his own hat-picking ceremony.

"What I plan on doing when I do make my final decision is the hat deal," said Cook. "I want to have all the hats on the table and then pick the hat of the school that I'll go to."

So on August 8, BYU fans should know if Cook will be a BYU Cougar or not. But in regards to how well BYU stacks up on a scale from one to 10, Cook gave a very favorable score.

"They're a 10 for sure," he said.

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