The Cleveland Browns organization is faced with an all-too-familiar task this offseason,...
Cleveland Browns: Exclusive Interview With New Browns Rookie RB Jamaine Cook
By Sam Ingro
“All men are created equal, but some work harder in the preseason.” – Emmitt Smith
Those words of Smith are no better personified than by former Youngstown State running back, Jamaine Cook. The new Cleveland Browns rookie has never just been handed anything in life, and he has spent his football career working hard to make himself a success on his own accord.
Coming out in the 2013 NFL Draft, the story is the same for Cook. As an undrafted free agent, he will have to push himself twice as hard as any drafted player, fighting to make sure that he is one of the last 53 active players on the roster when the Miami Dolphins roll into town on September 8th.
Buckeye State Sports recently had a chance to sit down with Cook and ask him a few questions, and walked away impressed with the intelligence, passion and dedication of the newest member of the Cleveland Browns’ backfield.
How old were you when you started playing football, and are you intimidated coming into a new team and a new league?
Cook: “I was about 6-years old when I first started playing football. I started out in flag football, I played at Michael J. Zone (Recreation Center) on the West side of Cleveland. Going into a new league, I don’t think I’m intimidated or anything like that, because playing football is something that I have done my whole life. All I’ve done is compete and work hard, and that’s all I’m looking to do at the next level because that’s what gotten me this far, my work ethic and being a competitor.”
At what point in your life did you know you wanted to play professional football? And if not for football, what else could you see yourself doing in life?
Cook: “It wasn’t too long after I first started playing, because football was more like an outlet for me. That’s what I did to relieve all my stress and everything like that, and the older I got, the better I got. If I wasn’t playing football, I have my accounting degree and that was my major in school, so I would probably be an accountant. One thing I would definitely like to do is help out the youth and the people that came from the situation that I came from that were less fortunate. I want to motivate them to know that just because you come from a certain situation and are less fortunate, doesn’t mean that you can’t make it in life. There are a lot of kids that don’t really have much in life and they think they are kind of stuck, and that doesn’t have to be the case.”
How have your experiences at Youngstown State prepared you for the NFL?
Cook: “Being in college taught me to be responsible, but as far as football goes, I think it definitely prepared me for the NFL. Especially from a competitive aspect, because our head coach Eric Wolford never handed me anything. I still had to work for it, and when he first came in, it was a battle between me and another running back. Fortunately, I ended up winning that battle. I never had anything handed to me, and I knew that I was always one play away from not playing, no matter how good I was doing. That’s just the way it was. And in the NFL, that’s the same way it’s going to be. You have to be ready to perform at all times, no matter what the situation is. If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s going to be the next guy in. That’s something I think that has definitely prepared me to be on my toes, and to be on my ‘A-game’ at all times. If you’re not playing the way you should be, there’s somebody waiting to take your spot.”
With teams like Green Bay and New England finding success without running the ball often, do you feel the position is declining in importance in the NFL?
Cook: “As a running back, I don’t think that it’s declining. Maybe it’s turning into more of a passing league at times, but I don’t think the running backs are declining, I just think that the running backs need to become more versatile. No matter what league you’re playing in, football is football, and you’re always going to need to run the ball. You’ll always need a running back to protect the quarterback, so there’s always going to be a place for the running back, no matter what anyone says. You need a running back in the backfield, because no team is going to pass the ball on 3rd and 1 or 4th and 1.”
The last running back picked high in the first round was Trent Richardson, a new teammate of yours. Do you plan on seeking out a relationship on the field with him? And how do you feel your style of running the ball can complement his?
Cook: “It helps any time you can develop some type of relationship. Trent’s a great player, and I’m sure he’s a great guy. A lot of teammates can take things from each other’s game, so I’ll obviously develop a relationship being around each other and being in the same backfield. The way I think I’ll complement his game? Trent’s obviously a great player, but in this league, you need more than one running back. And what I bring to the table is that I’m a little smaller than Trent, and while he can catch the ball out of the backfield, so can I. So I can give him a breather and things like that, so that’s one way I can complement his game.
My way of doing it is starting on special teams and then having an opportunity in the backfield. I know, especially coming in as an undrafted free agent, that’s where my place is going to be. If I make those plays on special teams, then I’m sure I’ll get my chance in the backfield. And if I get a chance in the backfield earlier than I thought, that’s great. If I’m back there complementing Trent, it would be a blessing. Being able to help the Browns would be a great feeling.”
How do you prepare for a game? Do you have any special rituals or habits?
Cook: “I prepare for games by listening to one of my motivational speakers, his name is Eric Thomas. I listen to one of his mixtapes, or stream live videos on YouTube. They’re really motivational and help me to get focused. I go over and review my playbook to get in the zone, but before games I really don’t like to talk to anyone. My one ritual I do have, I’ll call and pray with my mom. I always make sure I call before every game. That’s really about it, just listening to music and the motivational things.”
What was the hardest hit you have ever taken? And on the other hand, do you have any highlight move you’ve made that sticks out in your mind?
Cook: “The hardest hit I’ve ever taken might have been my “Welcome to College Day” my freshman year, it was actually in practice. One of my teammates came free on a draw play, the middle linebacker, his name was David Rach and he just threw me back five yards into the backfield. It wasn’t even a game. Ever since then, I don’t remember ever getting hit that hard. I’ve kind of learned how to avoid the hard hits now.
My most memorable play, it might have been when we beat Pitt, there were so many plays in that game. We’d never beaten an FBS team, and we were obviously the underdog. Nobody really expected us to win. That’s really one memory I definitely have. There might not have been one play, it was really much more of a team moment, and I’ve always been a team guy. That’s one moment I will never forget.”
Smaller school standouts often get overlooked in the NFL Draft, was it a disappointment not to hear your name called, or was it something you were expecting?
Cook: “It wasn’t a disappointment, it was more of another chip to add to my shoulder, gave me that much more motivation to play hard. After speaking to my agent, I knew they had me more as a priority free agent, maybe a possibility of going in the seventh round. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t expecting to get drafted. I mean, it’s not that I wasn’t expecting to get drafted…but all I was expecting was an opportunity. I got that, and I plan on making the most of it and seeing where it takes me. I plan on giving it my all, I plan on succeeding with my opportunity. I’m going to work hard and do what I’ve always done. Coming from a smaller school, guys are always looked over because of the competition level, but there are plenty of great players that can come in and succeed with NFL teams.”
How have the Cleveland Browns been treating you thus far, from the draft process to camp preparations?
Cook: “First off, I’ve been treated very well. When I signed and everything, I spoke with the running backs coach, and they told me basically you’ve got to come in and compete. I’ll be given a fair chance to compete, and at the end of the day that’s all I want. I got my call about mini-camps and everything, they were very respectful and everything like that. They’ve treated me great.”
What kind of projections do you see for the team this year?
Cook: “Obviously, number one, they’re better than last year. And number two, to get in the playoffs in the NFL, ask any team, the goal is to make the playoffs and take it one week at a time from there. You always want to get a Super Bowl, but one thing at a time. I haven’t really been on the team that much yet, we start camp on the ninth, but the team’s goal probably is to win the division. That’s how you make the playoffs, and then you win from there.”
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