The fifth year senior Michigan State quarterback has pretty much done all that was asked of him, and perhaps even more.
In the last few years, he's led the Spartans to Big Ten Championships, bowl victories, and put up some fairly impressive personal stats along the way. Yet many of the green and white faithful continue to carp that Connor Cook hasn't gotten the respect he's due. Point well taken.
But let's face reality. Though Michigan State has "owned" cross-state rival Michigan on the gridiron in recent years, and their basketball team is currently ranked #1 in the country, it still appears as if the majority of Michiganders -- and the national media -- would much prefer if the Wolverines returned to their "rightful" place of prominence in the mitten state. Why this is remains a good question, but there's no denying the obvious. When Michigan hiccups, people take notice. When Michigan State accomplishes something semi-great, people say, "yeah, but".
Connor Cook has been projected as being a possible high first round draft choice in the NFL next year, and that might well happen. Had he accomplished everything he has in Ann Arbor rather than East Lansing, he'd be all but a lock. This is no knock on MSU. It's a great university in many ways. Has been for many decades.
Yet despite their prowess in major sports, they just can't seem to escape their perceived second-class citizenship. My doggie doctor, who I thoroughly (excuse the pun) "vetted" before trusting him with the welfare of my beloved yorkies, went to vet school at MSU. So did every other vet in Michigan. MSU is the only college in Michigan that offers such a post-grad program. Alas, U of M has a world famous hospital, burn center, medical school for future people doctors, and a whole lot of dentists learn their trade in Ann Arbor. While all are necessary -- perhaps a difference in perception at some level. We won't mention the army of shyster lawyers out there, because, well -- they sometimes grow up to be slimy politicians, and I think we can all agree we already have more than our fair share of those.
But in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, where MSU will take on Alabama in the national semi-finals, will have a major impact on how Connor Cook is perceived, not only by the public/media, but the pro scouts. They will be there in force and watching very closely. It is highly unlikely Michigan State will be able to generate much of a running game against the formidable front seven of the Crimson Tide. Therefore, it will fall to Cook to put on an exceptional passing display if the Spartans are to have any chance of winning. They're 10 point underdogs going in.
If Cook crashes and burns in this game, he'll still get drafted next spring by somebody, but he'll slide back a few spots as well.
But if he comes out and lights it up against mighty Bama on the national stage, his stock will definitely rise. And who's to say MSU can't not only beat back the Tide, but go on to the national title as well, knocking off the winner of the Clemson/Oklahoma game? It's possible. The no respect thing? Hey, Rodney Dangerfield found a way to turn that into fame and fortune. It can happen.
No doubt, the Maize and Blue faithful in Ann Arbor would cringe at the thought of their one time "little brother" becoming a national champion on the gridiron. But hey, even the self-anointed elite have to trust a former Spartan to provide proper care for their four-legged kids somewhere along the way.
[Idle thought. It's probably not a good idea to be decked out in Maize and Blue when visiting one's vet. The prices just might mysteriously go up a tad.]
Nonetheless, this is Connor Cook's shot at true glory and everybody will be watching.
Teeing it up against Alabama is definitely big boy football time. How he will fare remains to be seen.
We'll all know how it turned out by this time tomorrow, or should I say later today?