Before that, Cook’s name hadn’t been on the lips of very many Kansas City fans. But he had been on the minds of general manager Brett Veach and his staff for a while.
“He was a small-school kid that transferred to Cincinnati,” Veach told reporters after the third round concluded. “And prior to the Combine, we loved his tape and loved his makeup. Unbelievable interview at the Combine. Super smart.”
But that was as far as it went in Indianapolis. Hampered with a shoulder injury — from which Cook says he is now fully recovered — he didn't participate in any on-field drills.
“And I think we were a little bit of a benefactor [in] that he didn’t go,” noted Veach. “If he goes there and he runs 4.48 and jumps 38 or something like that, those teams start checking that tape out a little bit more.”
After the Chiefs moved back four spots to the 54th overall pick — facilitated by trade with the New England Patriots that gave the Chiefs a fifth-round pick at 158th overall — both Cook and wide receiver Skyy Moore were on the table. At that point, Veach opted to take the Western Michigan wideout — but he was concerned that the University of Cincinnati safety wouldn’t still be available when Kansas City went back on the clock at 62.
“At that point,” recalled Veach, “these guys can go anywhere. I was worried, because I think Cincinnati was a team right before us [the Bengals had the 60th pick] — and them being, obviously, right there and having access there, I was a little bit worried they could go defensive back again.”
And that’s what the Bengals did. But rather than take a player from their own backyard, the Bengals selected Nebraska safety Cam Taylor-Britt — opening the door for the Chiefs to get the player they wanted.
Even though Cook hadn’t done any Combine drills, Kansas City’s assistant general manager Mike Borgonzi told reporters that they knew what they were getting.
“We knew his skillset,” he said. “A lot of these guys playing safety now have played corner before, some of these guys have to line up in the slot and cover receivers. Versatility is big there for a guy like that who is a bigger guy that can actually line up and play over a slot, play over a tight end, and can also play deep — that was something that was appealing to us and our defense.”
For his part, Cook said that versatility was hard-won.
“I played corner at my old school, at Howard University,” he told Kansas City reporters in a conference call after his selection on Friday night. “Being able to adapt there — and then transferring to safety in a different scheme [with] different coaches and a different playbook. Having that helped the process a lot more.”
Now he’ll have to go through that again — but Cook sounded like he was eager to make that transition.
“I’m very curious with a lot of stuff — which helps me to get better,” he explained. “I think that’s the biggest thing: knowing that I don’t know everything — and that I can get the most information I can by continuing to improve in different areas.”
But Cook said that even so, Chiefs fans shouldn’t expect too much of a change from what he showed on the field with the Bearcats.
“I just do what I do,” he declared. “I’m very versatile, so I’m just able to work and make it my own. That’s something that’s not going to change. You’re going to get the same player you saw in college. Now I will learn certain things — different level, different speed. [But] the energy and the style of play definitely won’t change. It took me this far, so why change it up?”
Asked by friend-of-the-site Herbie Teope of the Kansas City Star if his style of play could be described as a “heat-seeking missile,” Cook remained humble — but still said he would go along with the description.
“That’s a great compliment — and I appreciate whoever did say that,” he said. “I would agree with it. I say that because at safety, there’s a lot of things you have to get done: checks and formations and packages... but once the ball is snapped, a player really has to play what you can be. Once you realize that, you have to have a trigger — because as a safety, you have to be able to do what a corner does and what a linebacker does. So being a ‘heat-seeking missile’ definitely helps me out.”
Cook said he takes pride in his physicality.
“Learning how to be still aggressive — but be smart with it — is a different type of skill, he noted. “But at the end of the day, it’s a game that I played based on the physicality. Being physical started when I was young. I’ll tell you a story, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time: I got smacked — and then things got turned around. That’s how I turned into who I am today.”
And that now includes being a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.