MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis Express quarterback Troy Cook’s football career hasn’t been a traditional one. While most players graduate from high school, play in college and progress to the professional world, Cook had an unique experience, that includes a National Championship ring with Florida State University in 2013.
Cook was considered an "undersized' QB, coming out of Palmetto High School in Miami, Florida in 2013. He received only one scholarship offer, from FCS Western Michigan, and decided to walk-on at Florida State.
With Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston, and former Alabama QB Jacob Coker ahead of him, Cook was relegated to the scout team for the Seminoles as a true freshman. He did however help the FSU defense prepare for opponents on their way to an undefeated national championship win.
Cook, transferred to UT Martin in 2014, and started in 16 games over two seasons. He threw for 3,325 yards, 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions as a Skyhawk, but spent some time away from the football field after his collegiate career ended.
The Express added Cook to the roster earlier in the fall, and protected him as the franchise’s first ever pick in the inaugural Alliance of American Football protect-or-pick quarterback draft on Tuesday.
WMC Action News 5′s Sudu Upadhyay sat down with Cook to talk about his journey to the AAF, goals for the upcoming season and the excitement around the Bluff City’s newest sports franchise.
Sudu Upadhyay: Being the first pick for a new franchise, that’s a big deal. What does that mean to you?
Troy Cook: “It’s an honor. Making history, being the first pick is a great honor, and I can’t wait to be out and playing football again.”
SU: You were brought in with quarterbacks more people have heard of. Former All-American Christian Hackenberg and former LSU QB Zach Mettenberger. How do you feel that you were chosen as the protected pick, and what does that do for your confidence and mindset?
TC: “I always knew I could play. I just needed an opportunity. Going out to the quarterback camp in San Antonio I had great confidence in my ability. When I saw Memphis GM Will Lewis out there and offensive coordinator David Lee, they just really liked what I could do. I’m happy Memphis chose me, and excited to be out here.”
SU: What about skill set, on the field and off, sets you apart from the others?
TC: “I think my interviews went well, because I’m a smart kid and I know football. On the field, I’m athletic, I have a pretty big arm and I can move around and make plays.”
SU: What has your journey been like? Going to Florida State and seeing the highest level of college football, and then going to UT Martin.
TC: "I was a little undersized coming out of high school. Didn’t get recruited too much. I had one FCS offer, and I was thinking about going there, but chose Florida State. I worked my way up the depth chart. Eventually transferred to UT Martin to go and play, and had two good years there. It was awesome. The experiences were great, and I learned a lot from Jameis and Jacob Coker. They’re both great quarterbacks, and I’m excited to be out here in Memphis now.
SU: What did being a scout team quarterback for a team of that kind of caliber at Florida State teach you?
TC: “It got me ready, first of all, because I was going up against Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith, PJ Williams, these guys are all starters in the NFL right now. As a true freshman, I was out there competing with them on scout team, and surprisingly making plays, and that kind of gave me confidence that I could do it at this level or any level.”
SU: Since we’re on the subject of Jalen Ramsey, what kind of teammate is he? What was it like to play with him?
TC: “A great teammate. He was like one of the first guys I talked to when I was there. We spoke for a while, but on the field he’s a different player. He’s a DB. DB’s try to get into quarterbacks' heads. He’ll trash talk, but at the end of the day he’s a great teammate, and I liked him a lot."
SU: How different was the Florida State experience to the UT-Martin experience?
TC: “It was a little bit of shock at first. Florida State, a storied program, 80 thousand fans in the stands every game and everybody in town knows who you are. UT-Martin, has six thousand total students. It’s different, but I still got to play against big teams like Ole Miss, Hawaii and Cincinnati, so it prepared me for the next level. It was different and I liked it a lot."
SU: Did you have a chip on your shoulder because you didn’t get a lot of buzz coming out of high school, and is that still a motivator for you now?
TC: “Definitely. That’s how I’m going to approach going into camp this week. I’m going to go in there like I’m a walk on again, and I have to prove to the coaches that I can play, and that’s how I carry myself everyday.”
SU: How important is it for you to keep that mentality, despite being the first pick?
TC: “That keeps your work ethic. You go out there everyday thinking these guys didn’t want you, nobody really believed in you and that makes you work harder.”
SU: What are you early impressions of the league, Memphis Express and everything that’s been rolled out so far?
TC: “The Alliance is big time. That’s what I’ve gotten so far from this. When I was in Vegas for the draft it was so official that I felt like I was in the NFL. We have quality players, and I think it’s going to be a successful league.”
SU: What are your thoughts on Memphis and being here?
TC: “I was excited. I’ve been to a couple Grizz games, I like watching basketball and hopefully we can get the same fans to come out.”
SU: Do you have a sense of the fans in the city, and how they support their teams?
TC: “Memphis has great fans, that’s the first thing I got from being here. I’m sure we’ll get great turnouts at the games.”
SU: What do you think about playing for Mike Singletary?
TC: “He’s a legend. He brings some serious juice, and I’m sure he’s going to be a great head coach.”
SU: Why do you think the Express believe in you? Why do you think they used their protection on you?
TC: “I think it’s because they see something special in me. That’s what David Lee was telling me. He said, ‘there’s something about you, I couldn’t get you out of my head. The way you spoke and the way you played.' They see something special in me, and I’m going to prove them right.”
SU: How do you attack the daily grind of being a football player?
TC: “Right now, it’s 24/7 football. I’m doing interviews. After this I’m going to get a workout in, then watch film and study the playbook. It’s 24/7 now.”
SU: What would you be doing if football wasn’t your career?
TC: “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, but when I was in Miami I was working with my dad. He owns a roofing and construction business. I was doing that part-time for some money, but I kind of liked it and enjoyed it. So if football didn’t work out, I’d probably be doing that.”
SU: What are you goals for this season?
TC: “First thing is first, I want to become the starter. I’m going to go out there everyday and try to earn that, and once the season starts I want to be the best player I can for Memphis and win a championship.”
SU: What is you message for Memphis fans?
TC: “Just give me a chance, and I’m sure you’re going to be happy.”