“Originally what happened was, it was a squatting accident that happened during my redshirt freshman year,” recalled Cook. “One day I was squatting and popped out a disk into my sciatic nerve. I tried to play through it and kept getting shots to dull the pain but it wasn’t working. I was wondering if I could continue to go through with this. Then I decided to get the surgery to try and fix the problem. Ever since then I’m a brand new person.”
Following the surgery, Cook quickly recuperated. Once the pain of the surgery had diminished his quality of life began to increase without the daily suffering from back pain. He participated in spring camp under the direction of a new coaching staff and excelled in BYU’s annual spring scrimmage.
“I feel like I have a whole new back right now after my back surgery,” said Cook. “It felt like I couldn’t play football before the surgery, but after the surgery I’m a brand new player. I feel like I was when I was back in high school. I’m able to play so much faster now and without any hesitation and without fear of pain.”
His year absence from the sport he loved caused him to pause and reflect upon what he truly had. Football was a fun way of life for him prior to BYU. Following his accident and subsequent recovery, Cook’s view of life and football took on a new perspective.
“So many people take playing football for granted, but for me sitting out a year kind of gave me a reality check of how much I love playing football,” said Cook. “Having played football for so long I know what it’s like to be without playing football, and I can honestly say that I’m just so happy to be back playing again.”
When Cook signed to play football for Bronco Mendenhall, he did so as an outside linebacker recruit. Under BYU’s new head coach Kalani Sitake, Cook is being asked to switch from a 3-4 outside linebacker to a 4-3 speed rushing defensive end.
“I’m actually playing D-line again like I was when I was playing in high school,” Cook said. “Where I started playing is where I now ended up playing under Coach Sitake. I’m just excited to be back, but I have to gain another 20 pounds or so. That’s going to be my goal over the off-season.”
“We’re playing what we played when I was in high school,” Cook said. “We’re doing more 4-3 defense so I’ll be like that speed rusher on the outside to attack the quarterback. I just need to get the weight on and I’ll be good to go.”
As far as his new role within Ilaisa Tuiaki’s new 4-3 defense, Cook feels comfortable. Adding good weight over the off-season was a goal of his along with learning the new system. However, the biggest difference is the feel in the air inspired by the new coaching staff.
“It’s a really fun defense to play for. I mean, it’s a complete change and there are some new things we’re doing but there’s still a lot of the old in there too,” said Cook. “The biggest difference is it’s just so much fun to be out here with these coaches. It’s a change but it’s a good change.
“With the new staff it’s just a lot of fun to be playing football right now. The whole vibe of playing football is so much fun for us. I think our defense is strong, and I think we still have a lot of room for improvement, but I’m excited to see what we can achieve in the fall. We work hard, we play hard, but in the end it all comes down to having fun and loving what we do. I’m so stoked to be back playing football again and to be a part of this new program.”