The spectacle known as the NFL Draft begins tonight. It will span the next three days, as teams build the rosters of the future on the backs of standout college players. There are a few Cincinnati Bearcats that will be in the mix as the draft progresses, but not a one will come close to being taken in the first round, the marquee event of the entire weekend. As of posting, linebacker Eric Wilson is the only player considered to be a lock to be drafted at all.
Last year, two players from UC were drafted, with offensive guard Parker Ehinger going in the fourth round to the Kansas City Chiefs and wide receiver Chris Moore going two picks later to the Baltimore Ravens. That ended a three-year drought for the Bearcats in the draft, with tight end Travis Kelce’s selection in 2013 the last one before 2016.
It has been a much longer drought for the Bearcats when it comes to having a first round draft pick. To talk about the last (and only one), we’ve got to jump in the old time machine and head back to 1969. That year’s draft wasn’t an NFL only event as it was the last year a collaborative draft between the NFL and the American Football League was held. Some big names went in the first few picks, with O.J. Simpson going first overall to the Buffalo Bills and Joe Greene going fourth to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On the clock at No. 5 were the Cincinnati Bengals. With the hopes of selecting a franchise quarterback, the Bengals chose a local prospect in Greg Cook, who played at UC. Cook threw for 4,906 yards and 34 touchdowns in 29 games for the Bearcats. He did so in a time when passing was not nearly as idealized as it is now, but in his senior year, he put together a year that would could even pass for an all-conference effort in 2017. He completed 219-of-411 pass attempts for 3,272 yards and 25 touchdowns, as well as 17 interceptions, with a QB rating of 132.0.
Those stats weren’t the only reason the Bengals took him, as coach Paul Brown was supposedly so impressed by Cook’s play in a comeback win against Miami (Ohio) that he decided to make him the first quarterback taken in the 1969 draft. Other signal callers drafted that year include Marty Domres, Terry Hanratty, Bobby Douglass, Al Woodall, Onree Jackson, James Harris and Sonny Wade. Of the 19 QBs selected, not one made a Pro Bowl.
Cook’s NFL career was a blink in the night, although it started off well. He threw for 1,854 yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie and led the league in yards per attempt (9.4), yards per catch (17.5) and QB rate (88.3) on his way to Rookie of the Year honors in the AFL. However, an injury to his rotator cuff, which he played through, ended his career before it really had a chance to begin.
Even if he never made a big name for himself in pro football, Cook, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 65, is still a big part of UC history and always will be.