Ridge Point (Missouri City, Texas) safety Jameel Cook has a funny story to tell about how he came to commit to Maryland June 20. See, this 6-foot-1, 190-pound son of the former NFL fullback by the same name was chilling in his room on a hot Texas afternoon when his little brother, who is in the seventh grade, walked in. Jameel Cook and his sibling are particularly close, and when the younger Cook strolled through he took a seat on his brother's bed and looked at all the college letters piled up on his desk.
He spotted the one with the overlarge sea turtle on the front and asked, "Hey Jameel, you gonna go to Maryland?" Cook hesitated for a second before offering up an unsatisfactory answer: "I don't know yet, we'll see."
Cook's brother rolled his eyes and began pestering him.
"Like all day long my brother is asking me if I'm going to Maryland. He's into all this recruiting stuff and college football, so he knows what the deal is," said Cook, who held offers from UMD, Arizona State, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa State, Kentucky, Missouri, Utah and Minnesota. "And after awhile I was like, ‘Yeah, are you cool with Maryland?' He was like, ‘Yeah, of course.' And then I was like, ‘OK, let's go. Let's be a Terp.'"
And thus Jameel Cook became the University of Maryland's 13th class of 2015 pledge and second recruit from the Lone Star State, joining Bush's (Sugar Land, Texas) Mbi Tanyi.
"I called Coach [Randy] Edsall and Coach [Brian] Stewart and let them know, and it's official. My little brother got me," Cook said, laughing. "But, in all seriousness, I'm ready to be a Terp. I hit Coach Edsall on Twitter and told him there I was ready. He told me to call him in 30 minutes, and so I did. He asked me if I was serious, and I said most definitely. He was real excited and happy to have me on board. He's a cool dude and we've had some great conversations.
"Then Coach Stewart, and Coach [Keenan] McCardell, they both knew I was going to be a Terp. Coach Stew was excited because it's official now, but him and Coach McCardell knew in their heart of hearts I was going to be a Terp."
It was McCardell, first and foremost, who sold Cook on College Park, Md., which the Texas safety plans to visit for the first time June 28. The two have a bond that goes back before high school, as Cook's father knew McCardell when Jameel Cook Sr. was on the Texans and UMD's new receivers' coach was a Jaguar. The two both lived in Texas at the same time for awhile, and McCardell actually knew Jameel as he was growing up. On top of that, McCardell's daughter went to Ridge Point, and Jameel knew her as well.
"Coach McCardell did it all. He's the main reason I'm going to Maryland – even moreso than my brother," Cook said, chuckling. "I talk to him all the time, and the relationship we have, it's special. It's very personal, and it meant a lot in my decision."
Stewart and his overtures factored in as well. Cook said he knows how knowledgeable Maryland's defensive coordinator is and wants to learn from him.
"I've met Coach Stew before. He's a cool, laid back guy, but he knows the game," Cook said. "He's going to get his point across and get it done. I know he's a great coach and can take me to another level. Coach Edsall has experience working with DBs, too, so both of them are going to get me to another level and ready to play in the League one day, hopefully."
Evidently Cook's father is on board with the decision too. Even though the elder Cook played at Illinois and his son held an Illini scholarship.
"So I'm back where my dad was in the Big Ten, and he loves it. He went to Illinois, but he let me make my own decision and didn't push me," Cook said. "I called him and told him I was going to Maryland and he was like, ‘OK, go ball out and get ready for college.
"But, yeah, the competition in the Big Ten, he loves that I'll be competing in that conference. And he knows Coach McCardell obviously, and thinks Maryland is a real good fit for me. He's excited."
Speaking of the Big Ten, Cook said he's looking forward to matching up against some of the conference's best wideouts. He's a never-back-down kind of player and wants to go against the elite.
"Big Ten ball, I love it. In fact, my head coach tweeted at me and said, 'Congrats, go get it in the Big Ten,' and I was like, ‘Yes, sir, that's the plan,'" Cook said. "You know, I was raised watching Big Ten ball, so I love it."
In addition, Cook has family in and around Maryland. Aunts, uncles and cousins live in Virginia, Philadelphia and the Baltimore-metro area.
"Having family close by, that was a big thing for me," Cook said. "I haven't told them yet, but I know they'll be excited I'm coming up there."
Cook also knows that Mbi Tanyi recently jumped on the UMD bandwagon. The two go way back together, and used to compete on the same youth league team. So Tanyi did a little recruiting when he joined Maryland, urging Cook on Twitter to pick the Terps as well.
"Mbi, he's right up the street from me," Cook said. "He was another reason I chose Maryland. I know I'm going to have my [outside linebacker] coming there with me, playing on the same side of the ball."
There may have been another, less visible reason Cook jumped on board June 20. He intended to wait until after he visited the school June 28 or in July before announcing his choice, but he said the Terps are taking just one safety this year. Cook admitted he didn't want to miss the boat.
"I mean, that was sort of a factor for me. Missouri tried to do that with me, tell me they were taking one safety. I was like, ‘Eh, come on now,'" Cook said. "But I don't know, I didn't want to miss out at Maryland. I knew I wanted to be there."
There are still some questions Cook has about the Terps, however. Questions he's looking to have answered June 28 when he visits for the first time.
"The reason I'm going up to Maryland next weekend is I want to learn more about the academics, the program in general and just get a feel for the campus," Cook said. "The academics are huge because I'm a guy who is not going to leave college without a degree. So I just want to see the educational parts and just make sure I'm comfortable there. I know they're doing some new things with the facilities and dorms and all that, but I have to see it for myself.
"So if I see what I like, I'll be like, ‘Wow, I really love Maryland and I'm sticking with them.' But if not, well, you can always decommit. But for right now I'm on board with the Terps all the way."
Cook chose the Terps over a variety of suitors, though second in the running was Kentucky, while Missouri and Nebraska were third and fourth, respectively.
"It was close, but Maryland gave me more opportunities than the other schools," Cook said. "Maryland had the most to offer me, so it was Terps No. 1 – all the way."
On the field, Cook, who has been playing football since he was four, is a hard hitter with solid speed and terrific instincts. Last year at Dulles High (he transferred to Ridge Point this year) he racked up 83 tackles, had one interception, two forced fumbles and a touchdown. He also had seven catches for 90 yards and four scores, to go along with a kick return touchdown.
"Right now I'm 6-1, 187, and I run a 4.48. I can fly, and I can make plays all over the field, and I see the field well," Cook said. "But there's time before I enroll in college, so I'll get bigger, faster, stronger and become more of a man. Who knows what my ceiling is?
"The one adjustment for me is this is my first year playing safety, so I'll get better with that in years to come. I have to get my technique right and all that to be ready for the next level."
Indeed, when Cook was growing up in Miami, Fla., he only briefly lined up at safety. In fact, most people wanted him to play offense and be like his father.
"But I was like, ‘Nah, I'm doing my own thing, I'm playing defense,'" Cook said. "My first year, when I was just a pup, I played some safety, but every year after that it was a different position. Second year it was linebacker and defensive end, after that it was outside linebacker, after that inside linebacker. And I played receiver and some running back too, but mainly I always got put somewhere in the linebacker corps. The only positions I didn't play on defense were D-tackle and corner.
"So this is really my first year playing safety full time. I'm looking forward to making the transition and showing what I can do."
And that's his only focus. Cook insisted he wanted to make his college decision in the summer so he could give 100 percent to his new team at Ridge Point.
"Right now my immediate goal is to get better. I have a lot of doubters, so my goal is to improve and win a state championship my final high school year," Cook said. "I'm not worried about college right now. I'll worry about my goals in college when I get there. Right now I'm just focused on my season and finishing strong, and then I'll ball out at the next level."
Cook Ready To Be a Terp
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