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August 11, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Darwin Cook: ‘More to come’

MORGANTOWN — There was something gnawing at Darwin Cook’s insides.

Here he was, looking at entering his senior year, off a season that wasn’t really very satisfying, not for him and not for anyone on the defensive side of the ball for West Virginia University.

Oh, in his mind personally it wasn’t the disaster that it seemed. He had had his moments despite a number of injuries that had taken away much of his ability to live up to “The Cookie Monster” nickname his emotions had always driven him to live up to.

Somehow, he felt he had become a one-trick pony in fans’ minds, and maybe even in coaches’, the trick being the play of a lifetime.

That, of course, was nearing halftime at the Orange Bowl against Clemson a couple of years ago with the Tigers on the goal line, fighting for the last yard to get in the end zone.

Before, however, the runner could score what would surely be a key touchdown, “The Cookie Monster” had torn the football from his grasp, carrying it 99 yards to a WVU touchdown that changed everything about the evening.

By the time it ended, they were dancing in the streets of Morgantown with an easy Orange Bowl championship, and Cook was being celebrated for not only turning the game over, but for getting himself some extra time on SportsCenter by knocking over Obie, the plump little Orange Bowl mascot in the process.

A year later, though, his leg was aching, the team was giving up chucks of yardage almost on every play, and he even found himself on the sideline at times he was sure he belonged on the field.

“My mind wasn’t right,” he said. “I mean I felt like it was right, but to the coaches and everyone around here my mind wasn’t right and they felt I wasn’t playing right. They’d be saying if that’s how you’re gonna be, you’re going to be down. Forget everybody because you’re not playing and you think someone is messing with you.

“‘Don’t nobody owe you nothing,’ they’d say. That’s what it felt like. I felt somebody owed me something. I did the Orange Bowl and then I got hurt and I felt they owed me something, but they don’t owe me nothing.”

The off-season came, and he decided he had to put everything back together.

“I was getting my mind right, even if my body wasn’t right. My leg was still hurting, even in the spring,” he said.

Spring became summer, and he was working hard on all phases of his life.

“I felt like I was being a good leader, being a good person, being good in the classroom,” Cook said. “I mean, I did do stuff here and I was wanting to be known. It feels like nobody thinks I did anything but the Orange Bowl.”

That’s when he got together with girlfriend, Asia Lewis, and decided to put together a highlight tape, a message to the world that Darwin Cook was not just that one-trick pony, that he was truly “The Cookie Monster.”

Cook knew how important a highlight video can be. His high school video contained one blindside sack that won over then WVU assistant Jeff Mullen and got him an offer to become a Mountaineer. He and Asia Lewis would produce another one.

Lewis had learned how to edit and put such a video together in a WVU class.

So it was that “The Cookie Monster Ultimate highlights” video was created and posted on YouTube.

It begins with Cook racing to the sidelines and delivering a blow to Oklahoma’s elusive Jordan Shipley.

Next there’s footage from the Pinstripe Bowl, Syracuse on the goal line, first series of the second quarter, 4th and goal from the 1. Jerome Smith takes the handoff and runs dead on into Cook, a huge collision and Smith is stopped short of the goal line.

Another play comes on, the music throbbing in the background, Maryland has the ball and is trying to pass, Cook on a blitz. He jars the ball loose, Doug Rigg picking it up and running 51 yards for a touchdown.

Next a Kansas running back is breaking into the open until Cook cuts him low, causing him to do a complete flip in the air, landing on his back.

So it goes, over and over, until finally you are convinced that there is more to Darwin Cook, “The Cookie Monster,” than just the play against Clemson.

And that’s when Asia Lewis hits you with that play, the crowning glory on Cook’s career … with this year yet to play.

“The plays in there show I made a lot of game-changing plays around here, not just the Orange Bowl,” Cook said.

Presently, while the tape is available in its second version on YouTube (“I edited out the bad words,” Cook says), he isn’t watching it these days.

“I don’t watch it now because I’m in camp. I don’t want to watch no ‘Cookie Monster’ right now. But when I watched it, it was ‘Man, I did that?’” he said

And there was one other thought about this year.

“When I watched the plays I’d see me make one and think, ‘Man, I was hurt right there’ and I was still able to do some stuff. Now I’m OK. There’s more to come,” he said.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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