"Fred was an incredible football player but also an individual who was so well thought during his time here that not only was he named team captain, but also due to his overall popularity he was voted Mr. USM by the student body," Southern Miss athletics director Richard Giannini said. "He went on to have a great professional career and brought national recognition to Southern Miss."
As one of the first African-American players in school history, Cook was given credit for the ease of the way integration of the school and the football program was accomplished and his popularity led him by his senior year to be named Mr. USM.
Cook came to Southern Miss from Our Lady of Victory High School in Pascagoula, Miss. After a season on the freshman team, he began to get noticed during spring drills of 1971 and wound up as the starter at defensive end when the season began.
Immediately, Cook established himself as one of the school's best when he finished among the team's leaders in tackles with 68 and a school-record 18 quarterback sacks. That 1971 team finished with a 6-5 record while the Golden Eagle defense was good enough that year to record three shutouts.
He was the only member of the defensive front four to return for the 1972 season, but as usual he was ready to shoulder the load. He recorded 19 quarterback sacks that season, while finishing second on the team in tackles with 122. The team would struggle to a 3-7-1 record that year but Cook had established himself as one of the best defensive players in the country.
Although he was regularly double-teamed by opponents in 1974, Cook still finished fourth on the team in tackles with 67 and was once more the team leader in quarterback sacks. The team finished 6-4-1, but the last six opponents that year would average just over eight points a game against the Cook led defense.
For his play he earned third team All-American honors in 1973, in addition to being named first team all-South Independent in 1972 and 1973.
He played in the Senior Bowl and the Blue-Gray game and was drafted in the second round (32nd pick overall) by the Baltimore Colts in the 1974 NFL draft. Cook would play for the Colts from 1974 to 1980.
The Legends Club recognizes former university athletic standouts which made prominent contributions in their individual sports, while participating as student-athletes. With the inclusion of Cook, there are now 14 total members to the club.
Cook joins as Reggie Collier (QB, 1979-82) Brett Favre (QB, 1987-90), Ray Guy (P/DB, 1970-72), Derrick Nix (RB, 1998-2000, 2002) and Sammy Winder (RB, 1978-81) as the other football players that are part of the Legends Club.
- SouthernMiss.com -