Jacob Cook: paying it forward on and off the field

DOWNEY – Most kids look for excuses. Reasons why they weren’t able to do something to the best of one’s capabilities or why they failed. But every now and then you meet a kid who just blows everything out of the water. What he lacks for in strength, he makes up for in strategic intelligence. He makes his own destiny and constantly strives to be a better person and football player every day. He has such an inspirational story and you would have never guessed just by watching him play football.

Jacob Cook, wide receiver for the Downey Vikings, is a game changer. I watched him run a play during the Mira Costa game where he just took off with the ball with such great speed. He reminded me of that part in the movie “Forrest Gump” when he is playing football and he is given the ball and told to run. Jacob Cook is that man.

Every time I see him with the ball, I instantly get the urge to yell, “Run, Cook, run!” Once that ball is in his hands, he runs and doesn’t look back. Speed and agility both play into his unique skill set.

“I’m always overlooked in my position because I’m not the strongest or the biggest,” he says. “Other players have it easy because they have that natural physical talent. I have to work harder to get there, I don’t mind it because I love the game, but don’t underestimate me.”

There’s this uniqueness in his talent that can clearly be seen when he hits the field. He plays with such passion, precision, and technicality. It truly is captivating.

“Our team loves being the underdog. We love being judged by our size. But when we hit that field the other team doesn’t realize that they actually have to work hard,” Cook says. “We won’t be easily defeated. It’s always a good feeling proving them wrong. It’s funny to see them worry when we close that gap on the scoreboard. We came to win not to accept defeat without a good fight.”

He loves baseball but started playing flag football for the Downey Razorbacks at the age of 7. Cook was called up to varsity his freshman year.

“Being a wide receiver in high school is pretty intense, you have 5-7 passes thrown to you on average per game and you are expected to catch every one,” he says. “My greatest moment though was my sophomore year; CIF championship, I was a sophomore and we had this amazing rollout play that led to a touchdown. It was a good moment. That moment was for my dad, grandpa, and my best friend Jamari Mintz.”

Jamari was 12 years old when he passed away due to stomach cancer. Jacob and Jamari were the best of friends.

For the past five years, Cook has been raising and donating money to alwaysamom.org, an organization that supports mothers who have children diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“Kim Jones, Jamari’s mom, is like another mom to me. I try to visit her as much as I can,” Cook says. “Sometimes she comes to watch me play. It’s always an emotional time for me but it pushes me that much more to do better on the field. This is for Jamari. I made it to high school, he didn’t. I have to honor his memory by being the best. He loved football and he’s my motivation every day. I make it all count. Life’s too short.”

For a kid to understand how important it is to pay it forward brought tears to my eyes. It’s a rare and beautiful thing to hear a kid talk this way. He’s not only a student of the game; he’s a student of life.

“I dedicate each game to someone new. I honor life that was lost. This feeds into my expectations of myself,” says Cook, who plans to attend a university and major psychology or become a pediatrician. “I’m constantly pushing myself more. I’m a perfectionist. Every play needs to be neat and clean. I run all these scenarios in my head and anticipate each ball. I factor in all the variables of velocity, acceleration, resistance, gravity, how I stand, and how I plant my feet to formulate in my head where I need to be and how I need to catch this ball thrown to me.

“I’m all about precision, dynamics, and the mechanics of football. I watch films on myself and the competition in my position so I apply technique that works and doesn’t work to adjust myself accordingly.”

“I have to say thank you to my coaches,” he added. “They are the most random group of coaches I’ve ever had, but their stories are such an inspiration to all of us. It’s not just about football with them. We can go to them for anything. They make us into better men and get us ready for life after high school. They each sacrifice so much to teach us and coach us the least we can do is play the best for them.

“That’s why we cry at games because that win isn’t for us, it’s for our coaches. Coaching us isn’t just a job for them and we appreciate everything they do. Thank you for caring and investing in our future.”

We wish Jacob the best of luck both on and off the field. Stay tuned for next week’s highlight player of the week!



Published: Sept. 18, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 23