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The Curious Case of Connor Cook

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

This is still a thing:

So, I thought it might be time for a complete rundown of Connor Cook's MSU career. A (not at all) brief timeline:

4/11/2010: Three-star Quarterback Connor Cook commits to MSU.

9/8/2012: Cook makes his his first appearance in a game for MSU, against Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant. He goes 5-for-6 with 47 yards and an interception.

12/29/2012: Cook is surprisingly inserted into the game against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. He struggles some (4-for-11 for 47 yards and a touchdown) and only plays on 4 of the team's 13 drives, but he's the QB for the game-winning drive, capped by a Dan Conroy 47-yard field goal.

8/27/2013: Andrew Maxwell is named the starting quarterback for the season opener against Western Michigan, but Maxwell, Cook, Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry are all listed as co-starters on the depth chart.

8/31/2013: Cook goes 6-for-16 for 42 yards against WMU (Cook also gains 35 yards on 4 carries). Maxwell is 11-for-21 for 74. The defense scores two touchdowns en route to a 26-13 win. Cook's comments after the game:

"I missed a couple throws tonight, and I certainly want to become more efficient. I ran the ball well when the opportunity was there. I got too excited when guys were wide open, so the ball sailed on me. I didn't try to force any throws, and for the most part, I made good decisions. The sky's the limit for this offense. We've done some things against our defense, and you saw how they performed tonight. It's all about the execution. As an offense, we need to play with confidence and swagger. I will do anything I can do to help this team win."

9/7/2013: Connor Cook gets his first career start, but MSU rotates in Maxwell and O'Connor. None of them throws for more than 40 yards. Cook loses a fumble. The defense scores twice, again, to beat South Florida 21-6. Strangely, there are no post-game quotes listed in the recap for the game.

9/14/2013: Cook gets his second start, and explodes for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns. O'Connor plays only after MSU gets out to a 42-10 lead. It's clear that Cook will be the starter going into South Bend.

9/21/2013: After struggling some, Cook is benched for Andrew Maxwell on MSU's final drive of the game. MSU fails to pick up a first down, and loses 17-13. Cook after the game:

"No one wants to get yanked. To not have that opportunity, I was upset. On the road, against Notre Dame. Stuff you dream about as a kid. I wanted to be the one to lead the team down in a two-minute situation."

10/5/2013: Cook leads MSU to a win in Iowa City, 26-14. It is clear he's the top guy.

12/7/2013: Cook leads MSU to an upset championship game win over undefeated Ohio State with a 300-yard, 3-touchdown game. He's named game MVP. There is no handshake controversy.

1/1/2014: Cook leads MSU to a Rose Bowl win over Stanford. Cook is named MVP after yet another career game. There is no handshake controversy. After the game:

What was the second question, about the journey from fall camp until now? It's just been a roller coaster ride, the stuff you dream about as a kid. First off my main goal was to win the job and once I secured the job, my main goal was just to go 1-0 every single week. Obviously we wanted to set our goals high and we did, we knew what we were capable of, but never want to look too far down the line. Everyone on the whole football team pretty much had the same mindset for every week, we go 1-0, and the winning and the success will take care of itself. That's what we did. We stuck to the plan, and here we are Rose Bowl champs.

8/30/2014: Connor Cook takes this hit (and is miraculously fine):

And then calls out Jacksonville State after the game:

"I thought it was a pretty bad cheap shot. I've seen a lot of hits, growing up, watching TV and stuff like that. I've never seen a hit like that, so low and so late. I thought it was a really dirty hit."


12/16/2014: Cook announces that he's going to return to MSU in 2015 for his senior year, despite a real chance at being a first- or second-round pick. Cook says, "I have unfinished business that I want to accomplish next year."

1/1/2015: Cook leads a miraculous 20-point comeback win against Baylor to win the Cotton Bowl. MSU finishes 11-2, and Cook is 23-3 as a starter at this point.

8/27/2015: Cook is not voted team captain. Cook says quite a lot about this actually, but only two words stick: "It stinks."

10/17/2015: Cook throws for more than 300 yards against Michigan. This, along with The Play, propels Cook to a 3-0 record against Michigan.

11/14/2015: Cook goes down with an injury against Maryland, and it looks painful:

11/21/2015: Despite suggesting that he was fine all week, Cook is clearly limited in warm-ups prior to the game against Ohio State and does not end up playing. It's the first game Cook doesn't play in since the Minnesota game in 2012. MSU pulls off the upset behind Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry, anyways. Cook meets Miranda McCoy. Cook after the game:

"I always want to go out there and compete no matter the circumstances, but to see Tyler and Damion play and do really well was awesome. To see my teammates succeed against a Top-10 team is really great."

11/28/2015: Cook returns from injury and shines in a blowout win over Penn State.

12/5/2015: Strangely, Cook is clearly limited by injury in the Big Ten Championship game against Iowa and struggles (including a bad interception). The running game picks up the slack, though, and Cook is able to make a few keys throws on the final drive. On fourth and two from the Iowa 5, with less than two minutes to go, down by 4, Cook leads with his bum shoulder and picks up the two yards necessary to get the first down:

L.J. Scott makes the play of the game (year? I mean, stiff competition) to win the game for MSU. Scott had 14 carries on that final drive. Anyways, Cook is (perhaps not deservedly) awarded the MVP trophy and this happens:

Cook apologizes profusely to Archie Griffin via Twitter, ESPN, phone, and I can only assume carrier pigeon. Griffin accepts the apology. Cook gives the MVP trophy to his offensive line.


What Does All This Tell Us About Connor Cook?

Drink in all of that timeline above. A relatively unheralded recruit comes into a burgeoning program. Early in his career he gets a chance to compete for a starting job. He wins the starting job, and then immediately leads his team to its first Rose Bowl in 26 years. He makes some off-the-cuff comments (I didn't even include the "But that's Michigan" comment) that are maybe not advisable. He compiles a ridiculous record. He plays through injury. He blows off the NFL to try to win a championship. He puts his right shoulder and future livelihood on the line to help win said championship. I mean, what a fucking career.

Look, I don't know Connor. Maybe he's a total jerk. Maybe all of his statements about wanting to win are made up. Maybe he's been fortunate to be part of a quickly-rising program that has placed him in positive situations. It is theoretically possible that his comments off of the field and competitiveness on the field have all been a ruse to enhance his celebrity.

But given how honest he's been in virtually every moment of this wild career, from the postgame comments against Notre Dame in 2013 to "Hello, I'm Connor Cook", I think he's just an earnest dude who likes to win football games. It's the simplest explanation.

There's one last thing, which I will call the Florida Corollary. While watching the SEC Championship game with a friend, he asked me, "I know why I hate Alabama, but why is it that I hate Florida?" I asked him if he hated Tim Tebow, and he said that wasn't it. I believe the reason for the Florida hate is that Florida won multiple national titles in both football and basketball in the mid-to-late 2000's. That's just not supposed to happen. My friend hates Florida for the same reason why people hate Connor Cook: success.

When a guy with a lapsed blog domain name ( tweets disparaging stuff like this:

or Ohio State bloggers tweet stuff like this:

the reason they do that is because Connor Cook and MSU have ended Ohio State's national title hopes in two of the past three seasons (and to be fair, Ohio State ended MSU's in 2014). As MSU fans, we're still pretty sensitive to that type of backlash against an MSU athlete, because we haven't had sustained success at a national level in football like this in a long time.

That hate is the ultimate sign of respect for what Connor has accomplished in the last several years. I just hope we get to watch him play two more games.