Mountaineers hoping for late NFL draft call
MORGANTOWN — The NFL draft begins Thursday with the first round televised in prime time.
The second and third rounds follow the next night.
And finally, on Saturday, rounds four through seven will complete the exercise.
Consider that a primer for your television viewing those nights if you are so inclined to watch. Darwin Cook? Well, he may or may not tune in.
“I’m probably going to watch the third day,’’ the former West Virginia safety said. “If I’m picked, that’s probably where it’s going to be.’’
Indeed, unlike a year ago there doesn’t figure to be much action for former Mountaineers in the early rounds of this year’s draft. Last year Tavon Austin went in the first round, Geno Smith in the second and Stedman Bailey in the third. A year before that, Bruce Irvin was a first-rounder.
This year, the highest-chosen Mountaineer could be one who was really just on loan to the team for a season. Running back Charles Sims, who played at WVU as a graduate transfer from Houston, is projected as a mid-round selection. Defensive end Will Clarke could go on Saturday, as could Cook and perhaps defensive lineman Shaq Rowell.
But there’s also the chance that Cook and Rowell and a few others will have to get free-agent tryouts in order to find a team.
For his part, Cook understands what he’s up against. For starters, he was injured for much of his senior season, especially at the end, so he didn’t get any chance to make a lasting late impression.
In fact, it was January before the 5-foot-11, 194-pounder from Cleveland was able to really begin workouts, the result of a groin injury.
“Yeah, I finally recovered about two weeks [before WVU’s pro day in late March],’’ Cook said. “It took that long because after the season I couldn’t do anything, even run or do sit-ups, for about a month and a half. It was just a nagging injury the whole season.’’
In order to speed up the process, Cook did what a lot of college players do before the draft and went elsewhere to train. He spent time at a training facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., trying to get back into shape after the injury layoff.
“It’s basically the same thing that we do here, so give credit to [WVU strength coach] Mike Joseph,’’ Cook said. “But I just had to get away from here. I’ve been here five years and I just had to go somewhere to free my mind. I could have done the same thing here.’’
The other issue Cook dealt with is that he played on a defense during his final two seasons that was regularly torched by Big 12 offenses. Scouts will find players even if they’re on bad teams, but it certainly makes things more difficult.
“When you suck, you’re not going to get picked,’’ said Cook, who wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine and so had to make an impression during WVU’s pro day. “Just think if we’d gone to the national championship the year Geno [Smith] was here. Everybody would have left after their junior year.
“It’s all about winning. If you win, you’re going to get drafted. If you lose and play bad, you’ve got to work hard and do your stuff individually.’’
So that’s what Cook has tried to do. Now he’ll wait by the phone and see what happens. Or he may watch. Who knows?
“I may not watch it at all,’’ the former West Virginia safety said. “I may just play some basketball with my little brothers and see what happens.”
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.