Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook addresses questions about his character and leadership Thursday at the NFL combine.
Indianapolis – Connor Cook isn’t sure when it all started.
Maybe it was just before the 2015 season when he wasn’t named a captain at Michigan State. Or maybe it was after the Big Ten championship game victory over Iowa when Cook snatched the MVP trophy from the hands of Archie Griffin as he was trying to pass it off to his offensive line teammates.
Whenever it became an issue hardly matters now, because as the NFL conducts its draft combine this week, that’s about all Cook seems to be getting asked about. Well, that and the shoulder that bothered him late in the season and seemingly kept him from taking part in the Senior Bowl.
He met with the media Thursday, and it took a grand total of two questions before Cook was asked about his leadership. Then came the shoulder questions. And then a few more about leadership and whether or not he was cocky or simply confident.
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about me,” Cook said.
What Cook hopes this week will do is clear all that up and convince teams he is deserving of spending a high pick -- maybe even a first-round selection -- on a player who has won more games, and thrown for more yards and more touchdowns, than any other quarterback in MSU history.
“I think I can settle those in the team meetings -- with the coaches, with the GMs -- let them know who I am as a person,” Cook said. “Get up on the board, show them I can draw up anything versus a certain defense. Dial up a blitz, I can redirect the protection, pick it up. Anything I can do to show them that I’m not just a good football player, I’m mentally sound. I know the game inside and out and I’m a complete football player.”
The formal meetings with teams were starting Thursday, and while Cook wanted to show he knows the game, he also wants to prove to teams the “misconceptions” are just that.
“That I’m a cocky football player, arrogant, stuff like that,” Cook said of what the perception about him has become, “and it couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s why I’m looking forward to sitting down with these teams and letting them find out who the real Connor Cook is. I’m a nice, humble, hard-working kid.”
For the record, Cook was not a team captain in 2015, but he was a member of the 12-player Eagle Council and was the game-day captain four times. He rattled off those games on Thursday – Oregon, Ohio State, Iowa and Alabama.
And it was clear Cook was prepared for the questioning, even saying he understood why they were being asked. But he also said he’s not the only one to talk to about what type of teammate he was and will be.
“If you ever want to ask any one of my teammates who was with me back in 2013 when I was a sophomore, 2014 when I was a junior and this past year,” Cook said, “ask them if I was a leader of that team, and they would say yes.”
It’s something teams have been doing.
Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge was also in the media room on Thursday.
“A few teams have asked me about Connor,” Burbridge said. “What kind of leader he is and how do I feel about him and his character.”
“He’s a great leader,” Burbridge said. “His character isn’t an issue. I don’t understand where all the question marks are coming from.”
It might be more smoke than fire, and there’s no doubt NFL teams will make their own conclusions over the next couple of days.
What they’ll also decide is if Cook is healthy. He’s been training with George Whitfield in San Diego and he and his agent made the decision not to attend the Senior Bowl.
“Obviously the last few games I had somewhat of a dinged-up shoulder,” Cook said. “I didn’t want to risk anything else further than that. Felt like the best thing was to go to San Diego, to start training, start lifting, getting my body ready for Indianapolis.”
Proving his shoulder is now 100 percent will be Cook’s No. 1 priority when he takes the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.
“I’m gonna go out there I’m gonna throw, I’m gonna compete, and show everyone that it’s 100 percent,” Cook said. “There’s no issues, no problems and I’m gonna go out there and sling it.”
By then, Cook believes, there will be a clear picture of him as a person and a player. There is no arrogance or cockiness, he says, only confidence.
“I think being a quarterback you’ve always got to be confident,” Cook said. “I’ve always been confident in myself no matter what it is, no matter who we’re playing, I always believe in myself and maybe that’s what they get it mixed up with.
“But I don’t see myself as cocky, I don’t talk trash when I’m playing. I respect my opponent no matter who it is and I’m just a confident individual.”