'Big' football help for Liberty, WVU?
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jeff Alexander is looking to the sky for help.
In this case, though, the reason isn't based on faith or religion.
Alexander is the football coach at Liberty Raleigh, and he's looking up to a very big man in hopes his team's fortunes will look up.
See, Alexander is looking to Liberty's 6-foot-10 Levi Cook, rated one of the nation's top 10 basketball center prospects.
"He came to me and said he wanted to play [football]," Alexander said of Cook. "He was in a car wreck and hurt his hand. But he said, 'Coach, I'm going to play.' "
That's exactly Cook's intent.
"I'm going to play," said the athlete Wednesday. "I hurt my hand and might miss a game or two, but I'm going to play."
To say that makes Alexander happy is like saying the Internet has caught on.
"At 6-10, 295 pounds, he'd make a heck of a tight end," Alexander said. "I asked him a question. I said, 'I'm not trying to pressure you, but how many 6-10 guys play in the NBA?' He said, 'A lot.' I said, 'How many 6-10 guys play in the NFL?' "
There haven't been many. Seven-footer Richard Sligh played for Oakland in the late 1960s. Otherwise you'll find just a handful of those 6-8 to 6-10. Baltimore's 6-9 Jonathan Ogden was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. The tallest NFL wide receiver ever? Ex-WVU player Wes Lyons at 6-8.
OK, so we're getting ahead of ourselves here. But Cook is not only considering playing football for Liberty High, but also WVU.
"How many people can say they followed WVU football and basketball all of their life and played both?" Cook asked.
It's certainly an interesting thought.
"He played in middle school and people would run away from him," Alexander said. "There was nothing anybody could do to stop him. He played linebacker, but stopped because he's such a nice kid he didn't want to hurt someone. He's just a real good kid."
He's also one on the mend. After a summer league basketball game, Cook and his mother went to a Hooter's restaurant to help celebrate a friend's birthday. On the way home, while Cook was texting, his mother hit a pothole while driving and crashed. She was fine, but the athlete suffered a deep cut.
"I threw up when I looked at it," Cook said.
Ligaments (but not tendons) were torn, and the injury required 41 stitches to Cook's shooting hand.
"I'm still fine," Cook said. "I'm shooting good. The doctor said I can do whatever I want after Aug. 8. I'm not going to rush it though. I don't want to get out there [on a football field] too soon, grab a jersey and pull [the wound] back open."
Alexander laughed when considering WVU coach Bob Huggins.
"He'd never agree to [Cook playing football]," said the coach. "But Levi just wants to play, be a kid. Since the eighth grade all he's done is play basketball.
"In his heart, he wants to play football. And he's a better football player than he is a basketball player.
"He's so big and has that wing span and, with his basketball background, great hands. He catches everything with those big ol' mitts."
Imagine what Cook's presence would mean to a Class AA Liberty Raiders team that went 5-5 last season.
"He'd be the best tight end/defensive end we've seen in a long time," Alexander said. "I told him, 'Honestly, you're a better football player than you are a basketball player. I'm telling you the truth. All these people say you're going to be the next LeBron James, but you can play college football anywhere.'"
Apparently, that anywhere, if anywhere, would be in Morgantown. After I told Cook his presence on the gridiron would make Alexander's wishes come true, he didn't hesitate to reply.
"But maybe," he said, "I could make [WVU head football coach Dana] Holgorsen's wishes come true too."
The sky, it seems, is the limit.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.