PALM BEACH GARDENS – This past season, Palm Beach County had some of the best prospects in the nation, with running back Antone Smith, who is heading to Florida State, leading the way.
There was also defensive back Randy Phillips (Glades Central) and defensive end Courtney Harris (Jupiter), both heading to University of Miami. Quarterback Jarrett Brown, who will be wearing the blue and gold of West Virginia, was also a player that was coveted nationally.
This year, the area is simply stacked with major college football talent, which will keep the recruiters busy, driving I-95 and the Turnpike in search of the right combination to lure one of 15 quality football players to their college and university.
One of the players you will hear more about is Emmanuel Cook of Palm Beach Gardens. The 6-0, 200-pound linebacker/running back was rated No. 26 in the www.floridakids.us Pre-Spring 275, which is the first list that many look at and use as a source to rate players at the start of every new season.
Last year, Cook finished his season with over 200 yards rushing on offense with one carry going 50+ yards for a touchdown in a playoff game against Pompano Beach Ely. On defense, he had another impressive game with 10+ tackles and was around the football all night long. For the season, the versatile standout finished with over 100 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, 15 tackles for loss and 10 pass breakups.
"I rated him so high because of his athletic ability and a motor that never stops," said Larry Blustein of www.floridakids.us. "On defense, he has great vision and gets to the ball quickly. As a running back, he has tremendous instincts, gets to holes quickly and has the speed to run away. He is a true blue-chipper in every sense of the word."
I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with Cook on his home turf, Palm Beach Gardens, and he really opened up in talking about his career, what the future holds and what he expects from the recruiting process.
"Making the playoffs is only one step," Cook said with a determined look on his face. "Now we want to make a run to the state championships that will be played in Dolphin Stadium. Playing that game in Miami Gardens in front of all my friends and family would be great. Winning it would make it that much more special."
As good as he is on the football field, Cook also believes that there is room for improvement.
"I want to become a better receiver on offense," he said. "Right now, I just see the football mainly as a running back. If I show the coaches that I can be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, it would be nice to get the football a couple of more times each game."
The recruiting process is already started for this major college prospect. He has narrowed down a few early choices: "FSU, Miami, UGA, NC State and UF are the schools I have the most interest in right now," Cook said.
Of the five mentioned, the Seminoles were Cook's favorite team growing up. While he isn't saying that FSU will be the school he picks next February, he does follow this program and the players who have played at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"I am a huge Derrick Brooks fan," Cook said with a huge grin. "He was my favorite player growing up and the Seminoles were the team I followed most."
Cook will get the chance to see the Seminoles this spring as he will take a visit up to Tallahassee for their spring game and will attend their Summer Camp in July.
Positions most likely recruited for in college: Strong safety/running back
Charles Fishbein is the only recruiting analyst who travels to camps, watches games and practices and sits down with the athletes and coaches statewide to talk with them live throughout the course of the year.
'06 Focus: Emmanuel Cook
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