In his first three seasons, counting 2004 when he was a redshirt, Rebel Fullback Jason Cook has not tasted a winning season.
He believes that is about to change.
"It's not a lot of fun when you are losing, but we all kept our eyes on the long term and can now see light at the end of the tunnel," said Cook, one of the most articulate players on the squad. "On offense, we feel we are going to be exciting and productive. We have all but one player back and even though we are still young, releatively speaking, we have experience.
"We have all but Andrew Wicker back on the offensive line. We have our whole backfield and wide receiver corps returning and we have all our quarterbacks back. We also have some incoming players who will help and we are developing better depth at most positions.
"On defense, we lost several excellent players, but we have talent. We just have to piece it all together and I think this coaching staff will do that."
Jason's own growth is an example of the direction of the program.
"It feels like I have been here a long time, but it's been good time," Cook reflected. "I have grown so much as a player, a person, a leader and a Christian. I'm proud of what I have accomplished, but pride is a feeling you get before you hit bottom. I try to keep myself grounded. I know I have come a long way, but I keep telling myself I still have a long way to go, not only as a person but as a player. I don't have it all figured out yet, but one day I will if I stay on this path."
Jason has always been a humble, work ethic kind of person and player.
"I didn't come to Ole Miss with any kind of superstar mentality. My coaches in high school were tough-minded and believed in the team concept and that filtered down to me," he said. "I've had some bumps in the road, like everyone, but I learned early on to have a strong work ethic and be a tough person.
"That's served me well in college. I have a peace in me that I can overcome anything, respond the right way to adversity and do what it takes to win in life and in football."
Jason came to Ole Miss as a 220-pounder. He's now 250 pounds and there's not much fat involved in his makeup.
"It's been a struggle putting weight on the right way and maintaining it, but I think I'm there now. I'll lose some in August camp, but I'm pretty solid now and feel good about where I am," Cook added.
As one of the "older" guys on the team now, he's assumed a leadership role.
"I'm not a senior yet, but Coach O doesn't care much about what age you are. If you are a leader, lead, no matter what your age or status is the way he wants it," Jason explained. "I try to lead by example, on and off the field. He wants everyone to be more vocal and more accountable as leaders, young and old.
"I'm comfortable with being a leader. I'm comfortable speaking my mind and calling out guys who are not giving 100%. I'm comfortable encouraging my teammates."
Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner believes in the importance of a quality fullback, but at the same time he will utilize three and four wideouts and take the fullback out of the game at times. The fullback in Werner's system usually gets roughly a third to a half of the offensive snaps. That's fine with Cook.
"When they need me, I'll be there. When we get to a third-and-long and need another wide receiver in there, I'll go to the sidelines. Whatever is needed to win, I will do it and won't ever complain. It doesn't bother me at all," Jason stated. "I don't get caught up in all of snap counting. I get caught up in winning.
"I will get plenty of snaps and I will block my tail off and I will catch a few balls out of the backfield. I will be happy."
Is Jason where he wants to be in terms of techniques, body size, blocking ability, understanding of the offense, etc.?
"I think I have done all I can to this point, but I have a long way to go to be where I want to be. I watch film all the time and see little things I can do better on every snap. When you strive for perfection in a sport where perfection doesn't happen, you can eat yourself up. I am satisfied where I am, but realize where I have to go is the simple answer," Cook said. "As much as I'd like to say I am a finished product, I'm not, and may never be."
Jason Cook epitomizes a team player. He is also an excellent example of how to do things on the field and off. He's come a long way since he has been at Ole Miss. . . .
. . . and the even better news is he still has two seasons to go.
Jason Cook update -
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