East Lansing — Connor Cook can’t wait for the NFL draft.
Sure, that’s the case for most players who are hoping to hear their name called in the first round, but for Cook, it’s more pressing.
That’s because there’s little doubt the winningest quarterback in Michigan State history has been dissected and critiqued as much as any player eligible — and many of the reviews haven’t been complimentary.
“A lot of me. Most of me. All of it,” Cook said with a laugh on Sunday when he was asked how much he wanted the process to be completed.
It’s easy to understand. Just last week, USA Today published a story quoting anonymous sources in the NFL that questioned Cook’s character and leadership ability. It’s something that has been talked about since last August when Cook wasn’t selected a Michigan State captain and has been ramped up since the season ended.
Cook addressed it at the NFL combine in February and then set about taking visits to various NFL teams with the hope they would see the kind of person he is and how he approaches the game.
But the stories persist with the draft set to begin Thursday and Cook being projected to possibly go late in the first round.
“It’s just comical at this point,” Cook said following Michigan State’s football banquet. “The stuff people are saying are literally the polar opposite, like the complete opposite of who I am and what I stand for and the kind of person I am.”
The stories have painted Cook as a risky pick, despite the fact he compiled a 34-5 record while leading Michigan State to two Big Ten championships, a couple of bowl wins and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
At this point, Cook is no longer worrying about the critics.
“I did everything I possibly could to make these teams like me,” Cook said. “I was being myself. I’m never gonna change who I am. With the whole captain thing, with people questioning my character — I’m me whether you like me or not and I think I’m a pretty good dude and I think I showed that to these coaches and I think put myself in good situation entering the draft.
“I’m just ready to be on a team, and call that team mine, and call that city home and get to work, get the playbook, learn it and be part of a great organization.”
On Sunday, coach Mark Dantonio, once again, defended his former quarterback.
“When you’re investing a high draft choice you tend to pick apart everything in a person’s life,” Dantonio said. “He is a team player. He is a very gifted player. He is competitive and he’s resilient, extremely resilient. … I think he will make somebody a dynamic quarterback.”
Cook said he plans to spend the draft at home this weekend, choosing to be surrounded by family and friends as he waits to find out the next path he’ll take.