By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Dylan Cook went into waste management after last season.
“I didn’t really have the epiphany until after the season when I was looking back at it,” Cook said. “I realized that I have wasted two of my football years.
“I just don’t want to have any regrets after the football season ends.
His junior season at Graham has been far from a waste.
“My first two years were not good years,” Cook said. “I just do not like being on the sidelines, I don’t like it at all.”
The Graham junior did something about it. All Cook has done is lead the G-Men in rushing with 558 yards and six touchdowns, and has also caught six passes for 82 additional yards.
“I expected to be a blocker, I just tried to pull my weight and tried to get my halfback to work so I could block for him and for him to have a good regular season,” Cook said. “I never expected to run as much as I have.
“I expected the normal fullback spot where you have 4th and 1 and you get two yards and get the first down.”
Instead, Cook has combined with Charlie Benfield — who has run for 506 yards and six scores — to give the G-Men a potent 1-2 punch.
“We are like brothers,” Cook said.
Cook was listed last season at 5-foot-10 and 166 pounds, and saw little of the football field. Graham head coach Mike Williams saw potential, but it wasn’t there just yet.
“A tremendous worker in the weight room, he has really improved his body a lot in the last 12 months,” Williams said. “He had always been a tough kid and he has always been a good runner with the football.
“The year before he just wasn’t quite there for varsity. He was certainly tough enough and skilled enough, but he just didn’t quite have enough lead in his pencil at that time. He has made a conscientious effort to do that this offseason and I think it has paid dividends for him in his game.”
Not only has Cook added an inch in height, but he has added 40 pounds and is faster than he’s ever been, and it has shown, recording four 100-yard games this season, including a high of 120 at Richlands.
“He put on a little more than 40 pounds in the offseason and most people would be inclined to say he must run slower if he would put on all that weight, but he actually runs faster,” Williams said. “That is because when you lift weights and gain muscle, that is a good weight and helps you run better.”
It has shown too. Cook didn’t just lift weights, he also hoisted the knife and fork, enjoying a diet of ... just about anything.
“Eat everything that there was that had protein in it,” said Cook, with a smile. “After a while nothing really tasted good. Food was more like, ‘eat just because football season is coming.’”
Cook, whose brother, Hunter, is a standout linebacker for the G-Men, is also a talented wrestler who suffered a hip injury last season, but didn’t let that ailment slow down his development in the weight room.
“We lift three days a week and he was lifting five days a week and sometimes twice a day,” Williams said. “He had a wrestling injury and he was hobbling in here on crutches to lift weights.
“I think you are seeing the results of all that in his play this season. I hope all the kids see that, and they learn from it and do it themselves.”
Cook, who moved from the 170 to 182 weight class as he continued to gain weight, credits wrestling with giving him the aggressiveness to earn his nickname of ‘Truckstick’ for his tendency to run through the opposition.
“I love hitting, it is so much more funner than on defense because you really have to chase them down,” Cook said. “When you have got the ball they run after you, it is just so much easier to do it.”
Cook, who says wrestling provides a passion that is ‘unexplainable’, could use the same description for his drive to succeed on the gridiron, in what will be his final season with Hunter. His brother, Brent, is a former linebacker at Graham, as is his father, Fred, who played tight end for the G-Men in the early 1980s.
“It is the best thing (playing with Hunter). When I have to play without him it is not half as fun,” Cook said. “It won’t be the same, I have played with him since I was like 5 all the way up.”
Those days can wait. The G-Men (3-3) will host Galax on Saturday in a key Mountain Empire District contest, one week after Graham rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit to slip past Grayson County for the first time.
“I think it was just some of the senior leaders, they didn’t want to have to lose,” Cook said. “I just didn’t want to lose to them again.”
Cook points out one disappointment in a season of success, a loss to Richlands, despite his 120 yards and a touchdown.
“I had a girlfriend down there so I was down there when they beat us last year and I had to hear about it all the time,” Cook said. “I wasn’t about to lose to them again, it killed me when we lost to them, that is the game I wanted to win more than anything.”
That loss could be overshadowed by success in the postseason. Graham hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009, but don’t count out the G-Men.
“I think we can, we came out rough this year,” Cook said. “We didn’t come out too good at the beginning, but I think we are going to end pretty good.”
As for next season, don’t look for Cook to slow down as his senior year approaches. In fact, Cook might even go harder.
“If not more, that is my senior year,” Cook said. “It won’t be as much of a weight gain, I will probably gain a little weight, like it was this year, but I will get more speed.”
Where does this drive to succeed ultimately come from for Cook?
“The grace of God,” Cook said. “I am not the best Christian, but I try as much as I can to be better than I was the day before. I just try to give the glory to Him.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org