Cook is face, body of YSU football
Senior RB hopes to carry
Penguins into playoffs
By Joe Scalzo
He’s the face of Eric Wolford’s football program, but he’s also the body. Because at this point in the season, that body has been beaten up but is ready for (at least) one more game.
“I’ve thought about it [the end], but I’m trying not to think about it,” said senior running back Jamaine Cook. “I’ve had a long journey here at Youngstown State and I’ve been very productive and to think that it’s coming to the end of my four years here, it’s kind of heartbreaking because I love this place. This place has been great to me.
“I’m really not going to try and think about it until I walk up that tunnel for the final time.”
Cook is one of 14 seniors who will play their last regular season games today when the Penguins host Indiana State. Whether they play another game depends on whether they win and get some help, both from other bubble teams and the playoff committee.
“The coaches have stressed to us is, we’ve got to focus on being 1-0 this week,” Cook said. “If we have some good fortune, we’ll end up in the playoffs.”
Within a few months of Wolford’s hiring, Cook emerged as the standard-bearer for what the new coach wanted his program to look like. He’s been a leader on and off the field, earning respect the same way he earns yards — with no short cuts.
“He’s kind of the role model for what we want from our program,” Wolford said of Cook. “Guys who like to go to class, guys who like to do things the right way, say ‘yes, sir, no sir, yes maam, no maam,’ who are accountable, who don’t get in trouble off the field and all those kind of things.”
Cook was easily the team’s best player as a sophomore, rushing for 1,276 yards on 241 carries with 11 TDs. Cook’s numbers increased as a junior (271 carries, 1,386 yards, 13 TDs) but, due to overuse, he clearly wasn’t the same player toward the end of the season.
Before this year, YSU’s coaches vowed to cut down on his carries to keep him fresh later in the season, but they haven’t.
Heading into last year’s finale, Cook had carried 243 times out of 443 total rushing attempts (54.8 percent). This year he’s carried 249 times out of 453 attempts (54.9 percent).
When asked how his body feels, Cook smiled and said, “Mmmmm, you know I’m always beat up. But I feel good and ready to go. Going into this game there’s going to be a lot of emotion because for the seniors, it could possibly be the last game. We’re going to lay everything on the line without worrying about how our bodies are feeling.”