A day to remember

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall received a verbal commitment from Tyler Cook, considered one of the top outside linebackers in Southern California. It was a day long planned but held in secrecy for almost five months.

BYU fans may have learned that 6-foot-3-inch, 218-pound Vista Murrieta athlete Tyler Cook committed on Thursday, but what many don't know is that he actually committed to BYU on March 30th.

"I committed to Coach Mendenhall and he and I talked about this a long time ago actually," said Cook. "It was when I came up back in March for the spring game. That was when I let Coach Mendenhall and Coach Poppinga know that I was going to be a Cougar, because everything just felt right. I just fell in love with the place. That was when I first met Fred Warner.

"I made my decision then and I knew that BYU was going to be my home. I had made this decision to commit to BYU for a while now, and knew this would be the place where I would try and compete for a national championship. I knew this was going to be my place. I just wanted to kind of keep it quiet and a secret so I could surprise my parents. I knew the second that I stepped into Provo that this was my home. There's no place like this."

Not only did the 17-year-old Cook not inform his parents of his decision, but even his younger sister was kept out of the loop. He devised a plan to make his official announcement one that would be most memorable, but not just for him. His plan was to make the announcement on the wedding anniversary of his parents Mark and Gretchen. This would be a way to express in action the love he holdd for his parents.

Cook told Coach Mendenhall that he would make his commitment to BYU official on August 8. On Thursday, the big day had finally come.

"I was sitting in the back row during a team meeting," said an excited Cook. "Coach Mendenhall was in front addressing the team and said, 'We have a special guest that I would like to have come up and make an announcement. Tyler Cook can you come up?' I was thinking, 'Man, this is a long walk.'"

A bit nervous, Cook stood up and walked to the front.

"Coach Mendenhall introduces me and talks about my offers," Cook said. "Coach Mendenhall said, 'Today was the day he was going to pick which college [he] wanted to choose.' He then put me on the spot and that's when I said, ‘I want to be a BYU Cougar.'"

The response from the BYU players was immediate.

"Everyone was cheering and clapping and yelling and things like that," said Cook. "It was really neat to see everyone's reactions, and it was really special that Coach Mendenhall gave me the opportunity to let the team know I was committing to them."

Cooks announcement signaled the end of the team meeting, and the players began to head out.

"Everyone came up one by one to congratulate me," said a humbled Cook. "After I made my announcement, everyone was clapping and stood up to go to their position meetings. I was standing by the door and as everyone was leaving the room one by one every player shook my hand and said, 'Congratulations, welcome to the family.'"

Although Cook has never played a single down for BYU, being instantly welcomed into a family made up of a band of brothers seemed to be the fulfillment of destiny.

"Before I even had an offer from BYU, or even heard that they use that slogan, I actually put band of brothers on my letterman's jacket when I was sophomore," said Cook. "I put that phrase on my jacket to honor my band of brothers on my high school football team. When I came up to BYU for the first time and saw 'Band of Brothers,' I thought, 'Whoa! That's a unique coincidence.' I really felt it was a message to me."

After meeting with the football team, Cook went to share the big news with his mother, who was waiting downstairs.

"When I made the announcement in front of the team, my parents weren't there with me. So, they didn't know I just committed to the team," Cook said. "After it was all done I came out to tell my mom and was walking down the stairs from the team room to go tell my mom. My mom had this surprised look on her face and said, 'I found out by Twitter.' I was like, 'Aw man!' I had been preparing for this for a long time to surprise my mom and she reads it on Twitter. I was really bummed. I had planned this out and waited a long time to tell my parents so I could surprise them. Golly!"

"He wanted it to be special for our anniversary," Gretchen said. "I found out through Twitter. It was awful! I was wondering around and we had heard that Twitter was going crazy about my son. So, I go to Twitter to see what it is and I'm like, 'What? How can anyone know what my son is doing 59 minutes ago, because he's been speaking with the coaches?' One of the reporters may have grabbed onto something that was hinted at and reported it without confirming anything. It would be nice if they waited and confirmed directly with the family before making such a claim. I was pretty upset."

"She was excited and she was hoping the whole time that this was going to be the decision I would make," said Cook. "It was just kind of ruined because it didn't happen in a way that I had been planning. She was still grateful. My dad kind of knew what I had going on with Coach Mendenhall and Coach Poppinga. My mom was the ecstatic one because she knew that I was coming to BYU and not going to Boise State or Miami."

Although the surprise didn't turn out as Cook had planned, his effort was wholehearted appreciated by his loving mother.

"You know, what an exceptional young man to think this out just for me," said Gretchen. "He thought, 'This is what I want to do for my parents.' You just don't really expect that from a 17-year-old boy. He actually committed during the spring game back in March, and you guys kept it under wraps from everyone all that time."

To aid his plan of deception, Cook actually had his mother believing he might go to a different school.

"We actually left Monday to go up to Boise State to check out their campus," said Cook. "We flew from Boise to the Phoenix airport and checked out that area during an eight-hour layover, which was killer. Oh my gosh! We finally got here to Utah around eight or nine. I actually sent Coach Poppinga a message the night before to make sure they were going to be here. I didn't want to come meet with them in person and have them not be here."

"I didn't have a clue!" said Gretchen. "I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, what are you going to tell Coach Mendenhall?' We left on a plane out of Palm Springs late on Monday night and arrived late in Boise Monday night, so we spent all day Tuesday in Boise. We flew into Salt Lake and got in a car and drove down to BYU today early this morning at 8:00. I had no idea he was going to commit today. He really threw me off.

"Then he had me thinking he was going to go to Miami. Both of my parents were about to have a heart attack. They were thinking, 'Oh no, my goodness.' Then everyone was saying how Miami is Linebacker U and that's where you need to be. I'm worried and wondering if he was going to go there because the decision had to be based on what he wanted. He had me thinking he was going to Miami or to Boise State. I wanted him to go to BYU, but I had to let him make his own decision, so I was really worried and would just give pointers here and there.

"He had me going big time, so when he was coming down the stairs I thought, 'Okay, now it's time to talk about where BYU is in comparison to Boise State and Miami.' I was thinking we would sit down at some little cafe someplace and talk about where BYU was in comparison to Boise State. I had no idea that there was a commitment that had already been made! No idea in the world!"

While keeping his commitment a secret proved to be more difficult, the decision to commit to BYU months ago was an easy one for Cook.

"Everything about BYU is why I wanted to come here," said Cook. "It's about the vibe you feel when you step on campus, the quality of people, the Church, the coaches, the academics, and playing on a great defense that can prepare me to move on to the NFL. Also, the possibility of me playing as a true freshman on a team that represents something and being a beacon unto the world is something that was huge to me."

With his commitment finally official, Thursday was a memorable day for Cook and his parents.

"I'm excited to come and play on this number-three ranked defense," said Cook. "Hopefully I can help increase that ranking. It's now all finally over and I'm going to BYU. Now I can just focus on my final season knowing I gave my parents the best gift I could give them."

"I'm so proud of Tyler and so grateful that I have a young man like him for a son who had the foresight to do this for me," Gretchen said. "I'm just so happy. Today was a great day for us and I just feel so blessed knowing my son will have the opportunity to go to BYU and play for such great men like Coach Mendenhall and Coach Poppinga. It's like a burden has been lifted from his shoulders and the glow in his face is so bright. I couldn't be happier for him on a very special day for me and my husband. I'm just so proud of him."

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