Former MSU teammates defend Cook’s character

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Mobile, Ala. — Connor Cook isn’t participating in the Senior Bowl, but he’s still been one of the most talked-about players at the college all-star game.

The former Michigan State quarterback will be one of the top quarterbacks in April’s draft and a potential first-round pick, but Cook was one of just three players to decline a Senior Bowl invitation for non-injury reasons.

Three former Spartans are playing for the North team this week, and wide receiver Aaron Burbridge said a few teams have asked about Cook in interviews.

Although character concerns have arisen about Cook, Burbridge said people who are making such claims probably don’t know Cook.

“Everybody has their own opinion,” Burbridge said. “I know him personally, so I know how good of a person he is.”

Cook was not one of Michigan State’s three captains during his senior season in 2015, which led to questions about his leadership. Center Jack Allen said Cook’s leadership was never an issue.

“I don’t get it,” Allen said. “He’s a leader on our team, and you can see it on the field. He helps us win games, and he’s won an unreal number of games. He’s a leader out there, and I feel like people just keep bringing it up to bring it up.”

Cook was a three-year starter for the Spartans, and they went 34-5 with him in the lineup. He played better as a junior than senior, but still had a 24 to seven touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2015.

One on-field concern with Cook is his accuracy as he completed just 56.1 percent of his passes last season, but Burbridge said he always trusted Cook to put the ball in the right spot.

If Cook does have character or leadership issues, NFL scouts and coaches surely will find them during their thorough pre-draft evaluations. Of course, Cook could’ve answered some of those questions this week in Mobile.

“Unless you’re a top-10 pick, I think you ought to be here,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think Connor Cook’s missing an opportunity this week, to be honest with you.”

Cook will be a popular interview at the combine next month. Burbridge thinks he should be a first-round pick because of the competitive edge he showed at Michigan State.

“During practice if he makes a bad pass or something, he’s (upset) at himself because he wants to be great,” Burbridge said. “He’s just a real competitor.”