SE: Cook Reflects on Wild Wildcat Career

Kody Cook’s Wildcat career was one wild ride. 

Though all eyes were on him as K-State’s starting quarterback in the 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl, rewind to three years ago when he was closing his career at Hutchinson Community College, and he was virtually unheard of. 

Cook was uncertain of what his future would hold and if he’d ever play in a college football game again. 

“I had a couple (FCS) and Division II offers, but no FBS offers,” said Cook, who walked on with the Wildcats in 2013 after his Hutchinson offensive coordinator Tommy Mangino brought Cook to K-State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel’s attention. “I went into my last game (at Hutchinson) not knowing if that was going to be my last game or if I’d even play at the college level again. So to see what my career has evolved into, it’s been pretty cool. It’s been a nice ride. It’s something I can look back at and enjoy.”

Though he didn’t know it at the start, Cook went on to make a name for himself at K-State after going from quarterback to wide receiver back to quarterback.

The hard-nosed, versatile walk-on redshirted his first season (2013) training at quarterback behind Jake Waters. Cook quickly realized he wouldn’t see much time on the field playing behind a talent like Waters, so during preparation for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, he switched positions to wide receiver. 

“I knew Jake was pretty good, and I just wanted to play, so I moved to receiver and everything took off from there,” he explained. 

The following season, as a junior in 2014, Cook played in all 13 games with 11 starts at wide receiver. He grabbed 20 passes for 251 yards and played next to a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. When Lockett and Sexton graduated, Cook knew he’d be looked upon to take on a top receiver role in 2015. 

And he was the Wildcats’ top receiver in 2015 – until K-State played Oklahoma State in week four.

Against the 19th-ranked Cowboys, quarterback Joe Hubener was starting for injured first-string quarterback Jesse Ertz, while true freshman Alex Delton did not play beyond the second game of the year and sophomore Jonathan Banks was unable to go. So, when Hubener took a hard hit in the first quarter, it was up to Cook – K-State’s fifth-string quarterback – to get the job done. 

He almost did, too. He entered the game and put together two quick touchdown drives. The Wildcats may have lost by a close 36-34 margin, but they discovered Cook was capable of keeping his cool in tough situations.

After that game against the Cowboys, Cook became Hubener’s backup and took reps in both positions throughout the remainder of the season. 

“The biggest thing that I had to pick back up on at quarterback was probably our protection schemes and making the calls at the line of scrimmage,” he explained, “but other than that, receiver and quarterback are very much the same. You have to know the passing schemes, and I remembered all the running plays, so protection was the biggest thing for me. Once I learned that, I felt back and home.”

Cook felt so much at home in the position, he not only played it, but he excelled at it. Following a stellar performance at quarterback in K-State’s final regular-season game – a comeback victory over West Virginia – he took over as the Wildcats’ starter. 

“Kody was on the field today because of the way he’s practiced and prepared himself,” said K-State head coach Bill Snyder after the Wildcats’ 45-23 loss in the Liberty Bowl on Saturday evening. “Back in Manhattan, he practiced extremely well, and when we got (to Memphis) he practiced even better. He earned the right to be out there.”

While he was showing hard work and determination to earn the Wildcats’ starting quarterback position, Cook was also earning his teammates’ respect. 

“Kody has been a great leader for us. He’s a fierce competitor; he gets banged up but he just keeps going,” said redshirt freshman fullback Winston Dimel after the Liberty Bowl. “He’s just so football smart, you could probably stick him on the offensive line and he’d get it done just because he’s so tough and he knows football so well.”

Added senior offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, “Kody is a great competitor; he is a great asset to this team. Although he wasn’t a captain, he was a great leader on this team. Things really happened when he was back there. He was put in tough situations, and I’m really proud of him. He’s going to be missed in this program.”

Throughout his Wildcat career, Cook started 22 games – 21 at wide receiver and just one, his very last game, at quarterback. 

On Saturday evening, in his final game for K-State, Cook connected 12-of-24 passes for a total of 163 yards and one touchdown while he rushed for 19 yards. 

“I just tried to do what my team needed me to do, tried to fit in wherever they needed me to fit in,” said Cook. “In practices, I kind of just envisioned myself stepping into Curry (Sexton’s) role this season, and obviously that didn’t happen, so I’m just thankful for the opportunities God gave me.” 
 
His path through the Wildcat football program may have been a rollercoaster, but, looking back at it now, he wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

“I wouldn’t change anything,” Cook said. “It’s been kind of a wild ride, but it was a wild ride that I enjoyed.”

 

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