Brandin Cooks was a star of the pre-draft process. He ran the fastest 40-Yard Dash at the NFL Combine and catapulted his name into first-round consideration.
We wrote that Cooks was the most surefire prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft. Now, Robert Mays of Grantland comes through with a compelling story about Cooks and his relentless drive to achieve his dream of making it to the NFL. “The Big Promise of Brandin Cooks” reveals the ways in which Cooks positioned himself to earn a scholarship to play football at Oregon State. For high school student-athletes seeking scholarship offers, there is much to learn from Cooks about getting noticed and standing out from other recruits.
For starters, Cooks approached every correspondence with a college coach as if it were a job interview (italics from the Mays article):
The first recruiter to visit was Jody Sears, then on staff at Washington State. When Sears walked into [Lincoln High School coach Brian] Gray’s office, Cooks was ready with a three-page résumé, complete with his academic history, goals and even his personal interests. A similar package went out with his highlight DVDs, sent to nearly every major school on the West Coast. Jay Locey is now Oregon State football’s chief of staff, but in 2010, Northern California was part of his recruiting area. The letter was the first time he suspected Cooks might be different. “He talked about his goals in a humble way,” Locey says. “Here’s who I am, here’s what I want, here’s who I want to become. It was just so sincere.”
Cooks also scouted the programs he was most interested in to determine the best possible fit. When he first saw Oregon State play on television, he was intrigued by the Beavers’ pro style offense and how the system could impact his future potential:
As he watched, Cooks noticed a 5-foot-7 Beaver named James Rodgers tearing up the field. Oregon State played a sophisticated offense with a sophisticated route tree, but also one that favored the fly sweep—a handoff to an in-motion wide receiver—that was a college football craze at the time. “What I liked about the pro-style offense, you’re running routes,” Cooks says. “Me, not being very big, what was going to separate me from other receivers is route-running ability.”
During a September bye week, Locey was passing through Stockton on a recruiting swing when he decided to stop by Lincoln to see Brian Gray. During the visit, Gray mentioned that Cooks had been rethinking his choice and that Locey should reach out. He did, and Cooks admitted that Oregon State had caught his eye. “He actually paid attention as a 17-year-old to his fit as a football player,” [Oregon State coach Mike] Riley says. “Most kids at that age are kind of enamored with the surface stuff with recruiting. He based his decision on things of substance. He knew why he was doing it.”
Cooks received an offer from Oregon State and committed, but that was just the beginning of his journey. He was determined to make an impact on the field right away, and thus he immersed himself in the football program before he even graduated high school:
Cooks spent most weekends during his final high school semester shuttling back and forth to Corvallis. He’d sleep on Rodgers’ couch, in part to save money, but also because Rodgers had the playbook. Cooks attended morning meetings, to the bemusement of older players who couldn’t understand why someone who didn’t have to be there would be. The week of Oregon State’s spring game, which happened to fall during spring break, Cooks was constantly tangled up in [receiving coach Brent] Brennan’s feet.
“He wanted to know how we call our formations, how we call plays, what part of the play spoke specifically to him,” Brennan says. “He’s like, ‘Well, when you say this, what part of the play is that?’ He was just hanging out watching practice. But he was just really, really focused.”
Mays provides many more insights into Cooks and his meteoric rise to the top of the draft class, so kick it over to Grantland and read the complete piece. But before you do, check out the Brandin Cooks “Path to the Pros” video at the top of this post.