Cincinnati 125 for 125 | # 1 Greg Cook

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Quarterback | Letters 1966-68

Through the course of this exercise I have spewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 words running down the greatest Bearcats of all time. You might have agreed with some of my picks, disagreed with others, but to my mind there is absolutely no doubt who tops the list. It’s the Blonde Arrow himself, Greg Cook.

During the run of this blog I have spilled a lot of ink on Cook, seriously alot, because I am fascinated by Cook. His story, his style of play, how he came to dominate at Cincinnati before moving onto the Bengals for his one magical year before a torn rotator cuff robbed him of what made him great. The story of Cook is a Greek tragedy, and that is why it resonates so fully with me.

But it isn't just the story that makes Cook the best Bearcat of all time. If a story did it Mardy Gilyard would be the pick because the story of his time at UC is one of a kind. But Cook is the greatest for two reasons. 1) he is the most physically gifted Football player ever to step foot on the hallowed grounds of Carson field. He was 6'4" 220 with perfect form, athletic ability beyond compare and a mentality that was so suited for the game that it was uncanny. But Cook was more than just talent. He produced like no other QB in school history.

In 1968 he led the nation in passing with 3,372, reeled off 8 straight games of 250 passing yards or more, averaged 8 yards per attempt and 15(!) yards per completion and he tossed 25 touchdowns as well. These days numbers like that would be a good season. At that time those numbers existed in their own stratosphere, untethered and unrelated to what anyone else in the nation was doing. Reeling off the numbers is one thing, but how about an anecdote. (via Dr. Z)

On the last college Saturday of 1968 Walsh joined an entourage of Bengals coaches to attend the University of Cincinnati's home game against Bo Schembechler's Miami of Ohio in Nippert Stadium, coincidentally the home of the Bengals. They were interested in Cook. So was everyone else. The previous week he had set a single game NCAA record by passing for 554 yards against Ohio U.

"Miami was our big game," Cook says. "Oldest rivalry west of the Alleghenies. It was Schembechler's last game before he went to Michigan. Some film crew had been out there, doing a thing on their All-American linebacker, Bob Babich. We were all excited coming out onto the field, and then one guy said to me, 'Look who's here.'

"I looked in the stands, right where we were coming out, and there were all the Bengals coaches sitting there, Paul Brown, Walsh, Tiger Johnson, Jack Donaldson, the whole bunch of them. I was stunned.

"Well, we were behind at the half, 21-6, and we had minus-six yards of offense. Paul Brown got up and left. Walsh told me later that he'd stayed around for a while after that, but I kept looking in the stands and I couldn't see any of them. Then we came from behind and beat them, 23-21, and I threw for 406 yards.

"Someone who knew Brown told me that he went down to his social club that evening, the place where he always went to on Saturdays, and asked someone, 'What happened at the U.C. game?' The guy told him we won, 23-21. 'You're a liar,' Brown said.

"But he got the game film, and when he got through looking at it, he said, 'That quarterback. That's our draft choice.'"

to quote Bill Walsh from that same article.

"Greg Cook, what a great, great talent. What a terrible shame."

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