The football and basketball teams at West Virginia have always had a connection. Players attend each other's games for support.

Quarterback Jarrett Brown even played basketball for one year as the latest in a group of players that have played both sports. (Remember Scotty McDonald? Wayne Yearwood?) However, last year, the teams connected in a different way, as former WVU basketball player Will Thomas was one of the main reasons that freshman defensive back Darwin Cook came to Morgantown.

"[Thomas] has a great influence on me," said Cook. "He's from East Cleveland; my neck of the woods. He said that West Virginia was a nice place and I saw that he did well in school academically. Coming from where I'm coming from, if you did good academically, that's where I wanted to be."

Once Cook committed, it set up an expected reunion for pair. However, Thomas transferred to West Virginia State by the time Cook made it to school. The sudden absence of a friendly face gave Cook a few doubts – which isn't a surprise given all of the thoughts and fears that any freshman faces when he goes off to school.

"For a minute, [his transfer] kind of made me wonder," admitted Cook. "But now that I have been around my teammates, they have embraced and made me feel good -- like Will Thomas was still here."

Thomas was not Cook's only connection to West Virginia. His high school, Shaw, is the same school that produced WVU consensus all American Darryl Talley.

"I was familiar with him growing up," said Cook. "I started learning about him my 11th grade year of high school. I contact him like daily now just to chat. He's told me about what classes to take. He told me to be humble about the situation that you're in because somebody could take it from you in the blink of an eye. He's a big deal [at my high school.] [Talley] had an influence on me coming here. I had so many connections to West Virginia that I thought it was a great place."

With Thomas helping to pave the way, and Talley providing moral support, Cook had a bit of a leg on other freshmen, who sometimes don't have such backstops. The pace of play, the new surroundings and the different environment all combine to make the move to college a daunting experience. However, several coaches have noted that they are pleased with the way the newcomers have adjusted. Still, Cook admitted that it was difficult to get used to.

"The first two days were rough," said Cook. "We had to learn so much information. As the days went on, it got easier. It's still tough but my teammates have helped me out. The biggest difference [from high school] is learning the defense. When I was in high school, I used to play defensive end, so I was just rushing the quarterback all of the time. Now I am at defensive back and I have to learn all of these plays. My coaches have helped me out with it.

"Coach Dunlap is a great coach," Cook continued. "He's just great. I like his intensity. He really cares about things. He doesn't yell at you or cuss at you but he teaches you the fundamentals of what you have to do."

Although the freshmen have a long way to go, they seem to be making big strides in learning the Mountaineer system. Cook, with a little extra support in his corner from a former Mountaineer great, could turn out to be one of the steals of the class.

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