Cook admits not being named MSU captain bothered him

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Quarterback Connor Cook is projected to be either a late first- or early second-round pick.

East Lansing — Connor Cook knows why there have been so many questions about him.

He understands why they’ve been asked, but doesn’t understand why they exist.

“Because I wasn’t voted captain,” said Cook, who participated in Michigan State’s pro day Wednesday, throwing 67 passes, completing all but a handful, and quieting anyone who questioned the health of his throwing shoulder and ability on deep throws. “When you have a quarterback that’s that successful and a team that is that good, and he’s not voted captain, obviously there are going to be some issues.

“So people immediately jump to conclusions, ‘Oh, he must have done something to not be voted captain. Did he break a team rule? Did he get arrested?’ No. ‘Oh, he must not get along with his teammates.’ That’s not true, either. ‘Oh, well he must have a really bad attitude or a bad personality’. And that’s not true, either. ... There (are) no red flags.”

Cook said he answered the questions about his character during the season and postseason and at the combine.

And he knows he probably will have to continue fielding them heading into next month’s NFL draft.

But the three-time All-Big Ten quarterback, projected a first- or second-round selection, admits not having the “captain” title bothered him.

“A little bit,” he said. “Obviously you want to be captain, but it drove me to be the best quarterback I can possibly be and earn everything I get. It made me hungrier and made me want to go out there and be the best quarterback.”

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, on hand to watch 20 of his players take part in the workout before representatives from every NFL team, said he didn’t realize until later what not being a captain would mean for Cook.

“I’m concentrating on getting our football team ready to play, so I lose sight of things down the line,” Dantonio said. “I didn’t think it would cause this type of situation.

“You can’t refute the job that he’s done on the field or leadership within our team. He prepares, he plays with great intensity, he plays aggressively.”

Cook has been disappointed he has received criticism from people who don’t know him. He has always had a thick skin, he said. That goes with playing quarterback as he has learned to deflect.

“People can say whatever the heck they want to say about me, and it’s not going to affect me one bit,” he said. “So if they want to talk about the captain thing, if they want to say I’m a bad person, if they want to do anything like that, they can come meet me and talk to me and then get a better feel on that.

“They can come talk to my teammates, they can talk to my coaches, but if they’re not going to do that and they’re going to continue to say it, I don’t really care.”

What he does care about is showing his shoulder is “100 percent,” and has been since a week or two before the Combine. He has continued to work on strengthening the shoulder.

And, he clearly wanted to showcase his ability on the deep ball.

“Hearing from other people, from scouts, ‘Can you drive it? Is his arm healthy? Is his shoulder right?’ ” Cook said. “There were things like that I wanted to prove and (show) obviously why I’m one of the best QBs in the country.”

Quarterback guru George Whitfield, who has worked with Cook several years, attended the workout and felt Cook accomplished his goals.

“I thought he did very good, and that opinion is rooted in knowing what he set out to do was to show that he could drive the ball,” Whitfield said. “We even added, up until this past week, more routes driving the ball, going north and going to the boundary.

“Connor is interesting because so many kids are questioned coming out in this process that have played in the gun, played in the spread. Can they play under center? Can they drop? Do they understand timing? So those kids are always asked, ‘Can you hit balls in rhythm and timing?’ They know he can do that.”

Cook has upcoming private workouts in East Lansing with the Dolphins, 49ers and Cowboys, and said he gladly will go wherever he’s selected.

“I’m just looking forward to the whole process,” he said. “I hope after the meetings back in Indy (at the Combine) they know who the real Connor Cook is, that I’m a good guy, I’m a hard worker, I’m a sensitive, affectionate guy who’s not confrontational.”