College football: SUU's Cook translates soccer success to football
The ball left the foot of Southern Utah kicker Colton Cook, and he knew before anyone else in the stadium that the Thunderbirds were going to knock off the top-ranked FCS football team in the country, Eastern Washington.
Cook didn't need to wait for assurance from the referees that his 36-yard field goal attempt with 3 seconds left was good. He didn't even need to watch the ball sail through the uprights.
"Oh yeah, I knew right when I kicked it," Cook said. "In all honesty, all my kicks, I basically know. If I'm watching it as it's still going, it's because I'm nervous if it will go in. Usually if it's good, I have yet to see the refs put their arms up. I just congratulate my team and walk away."
But Cook couldn't celebrate just yet. With a few seconds left on the clock, Cook still had to execute a squib kickoff, which he did, to seal the Thunderbirds' 30-27 win over the Eagles on Oct. 27.
"We were going crazy," Cook said. "The coaches tried to keep us disciplined because going back to the Utah-BYU game where people rushed onto the field, we didn't want to have one of those. We still had to kick off. The game wasn't over yet."
By kicking the game-winner in a situation of that magnitude, Cook acknowledged he lived the scenario every kicker daydreams about during practice. Still, Cook insists he was calm as he lined up for the kick.
"I know you may not believe me, but I don't really feel pressure," Cook said. "They try to ice me, but it really doesn't affect me. If I were to miss it, I don't think it would have been because of the pressure. It would have just been because I missed it."
"The guy was clutch," Thunderbirds special teams co-coordinator Ronnie Pentz said. "I mean, if he was nervous, he didn't show it at all."
That Cook even was on the field to make the kick took a fortuitous turn of fate. He was an all-state soccer player at Viewmont, but he never played varsity football in high school. But when his brother's semi-pro team needed a kicker, Cook discovered he had a talent for kicking the pigskin, too.
He eventually wound up at Southern Utah, where he's thrived in his new sport. He made 14 of 19 field goals last year and has gotten better this year, making 17 of 20, including a perfect mark from within 40 yards.
"He was the best soccer player in the state his senior year of high school," Pentz said. "So he had all the natural ability in the world. I really haven't done a whole lot. He came in already a very good kicker."
There have been challenges for Cook adjusting to football. He always was the star of the soccer team, but he now understands that a football kicker often is overlooked. And football practices and routines are drastically different from what he was used to. In the end though, he's still just doing what he's always done.
"It's been a transition in the sense that it's a whole different sport," Cook said. "But what I do, I still kick the ball."
Colton Cook never played football in high school.
Cook is 17 of 20 on field-goal attempts this season.