2015 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award recipient compiled a 34-5 record as a three-year starter, while leading Michigan State to two Big Ten Championships and three-straight Top 10 finishes.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State fifth-year senior Connor Cook, the winningest quarterback in school history (34-5 career record), has been selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round (No. 100 overall) of the 2016 National Football League Draft on Thursday, April 28.
Cook is the second Spartan quarterback during head coach Mark Dantonio’s tenure to be drafted, joining Kirk Cousins, who was selected by Washington in the fourth round (No. 102 overall) in 2012.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Cook completed his Michigan State career as the program’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (71), passing yards (9,194) and total offense (9,403 yards). He compiled a 34-5 (.872) record in 39 career starts, including a 23-2 mark (.920) against Big Ten opponents, while leading MSU to three bowl wins (2012 Buffalo Wild Wings, 2014 Rose, 2015 Cotton), two Big Ten Championships (2013, 2015) and a berth in the 2015 College Football Playoff. The 34 wins are fourth most in Big Ten history and tied for 25th in NCAA FBS history by a starting quarterback.
Connor Cook, meant to be a Raider? Jon Gruden believes so:https://t.co/hObk04Cfwu
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) April 30, 2016
Cook was named recipient of the 2015 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented annually since 1987 to the nation's top college quarterback. Candidates for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award must be college seniors or fourth-year juniors on schedule to graduate with their class. In addition to the accomplishments on the field, candidates are judged on their character, citizenship, scholarship achievement and leadership qualities.
During his senior season, Cook became the first Spartan quarterback to win the Greise-Brees Big Ten Quarterback of the Year Award since its inception in 2011, and was also the first Spartan QB be named first-team All-Big Ten since Steve Juday in 1965 and only the fifth ever in school history (Earl Morrall, 1955; James Ninowski, 1957; Dean Look, 1959; Juday, 1965). Cook was a second-team selection in 2013 and 2014.
Completing 56 percent of his passes (229-of-408) for 3,131 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2015, Cook finished among MSU's single-season leaders in touchdowns (tied for second with 24, tying a career high), pass attempts (fourth with career-high 408), passing yards (fourth with 3,131), pass completions (fifth with career-high 229) and passing yards per game (fifth with 240.8 per game). He ranked among the Big Ten leaders in touchdown passes (second with 24), passing (third with 240.8 ypg.), total offense (third with 245.2 ypg.) and passing efficiency (fifth with 136.6 rating).
“Connor Cook is a proven winner,” Dantonio said. “He went 34-5 as a starter and won two Big Ten Championship rings. Connor played well on the big stage throughout his career while being named MVP of two Big Ten Championship Games (2013 and 2015) as well as the 2014 Rose Bowl. He played his best in the tight games and had the unique ability to make the guys around him better.
“Connor was very patient with his reads and displayed remarkable accuracy in critical situations. He remained cool under pressure, and he had the knack for making plays when the game was on the line. Most importantly, he was an outstanding game manager and leader. Connor consistently performed at a high level, and he gave us a chance to win every game.
“He has a big arm, quick release and good presence in the pocket. Connor can make all of the throws, and he delivers a catchable ball, with great placement. In addition, he has a short memory, which is a tremendous quality for a quarterback. Connor has the uncanny ability to shake off bad plays. He definitely has all of the tools to perform at the next level.
“Connor comes from the same system as (Washington Redskins quarterback) Kirk Cousins, so he has a solid foundation in a pro-style offense,” Dantonio continued. “He’s a quick study, so it won’t take him long to master the offense. Connor won’t be nervous; he will prove himself under center and earn the respect of his teammates. I’m sure the Oakland Raiders are very excited to have him.”
“I’m very excited for Connor’s future in the NFL and looking forward to seeing his dream begin in Oakland,” MSU quarterbacks coach Brad Salem said. “It has been a pleasure to coach him and a joy to watch his success as a quarterback. He will continue to make clutch throws in big games. Connor is the latest Spartan gunslinger to take his talents to the NFL.”
Cook finished tied for ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting, becoming the first Spartan to place in the Top 10 since Javon Ringer in 2008 (10th); he also became just the fourth Spartan quarterback to finish in the Top 10 and the first since 1965 (Juday, 1965, 6th; Look, 1959, 6th; Morrall, 1955, 4th). Cook was a finalist for both the Manning Award and Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award (Big Ten’s best player/one of three), and was a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award (quarterback of the year) and Maxwell Award (college player of the year).
He also was presented the Downtown Coaches Club Award as the outstanding senior on offense.
During the middle of the season, Cook established a school record by throwing for more than 300 yards in four consecutive games (367 vs. Rutgers; 328 vs. Michigan; career-high 398 vs. Indiana; 335 vs. Nebraska); the four 300-yard passing games were tied for second most in an MSU single season (record: Smoker with six in 2003). In addition, Cook had eight 200-yard passing games, tied for fifth most in an MSU single-season, and in Big Ten games, he averaged 270.3 passing yards per game. Cook surpassed Cousins for the most wins by a Spartan starting QB in school history in the Purdue game in Week 5 (Cousins had a 27-12 record from 2009-11); Cook also tied a school record with Cousins with 39 career starts.
Cook became the first player in Big Ten history to win the Grange-Griffin Big Ten Championship Game Most Valuable Player Award twice (also won in 2013 vs. Ohio State) as he helped lead the Spartans past No. 4 Iowa, 16-13, to claim MSU's second Big Ten title in three years. Cook completed 16-of-32 passes for 191 yards against the Hawkeyes, including a key 16-yard strike to Burbridge on third-and-8 during the game-winning touchdown drive. On that same drive, which lasted 22 plays and went 82 yards in 9:04, he also rushed 2 yards for a first down on fourth-and-2 from the Iowa 5-yard line with 1:59 remaining that set up LJ Scott's 1-yard game-winning TD run with 27 seconds left. It marked Cook's sixth fourth-quarter comeback for the Spartans (2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs. TCU; 2013 vs. Ohio State in Big Ten Championship Game; 2014 Rose Bowl vs. Stanford; 2015 Cotton Bowl vs. Baylor; 2015 vs. Michigan, 2015 vs. Iowa in Big Ten Championship Game). Cook's five career wins over AP Top 10 teams is second in school history (Juday with six from 1963-65).
Cook posted his seventh 200-yard passing game of the season and 25th of his career, hitting 19-of-26 throws for 248 yards and three touchdowns against Penn State on Senior Day in his final appearance at Spartan Stadium. With 243 total yards vs. PSU, Cook set MSU's career record for total offense (previous record – 9,004 yards by Cousins, 2008-11). He became the school's all-time leader in total offense with his 16-yard completion to R.J. Shelton early in the fourth quarter.
Cook had his school-record streak of 36 consecutive starts snapped as he sat out the Ohio State game on Nov. 21 (sprained shoulder).
Cook tied a career high with four TD passes at Nebraska to set a Michigan State career record with 68, passing Cousins. Cook completed 23-of-37 passes for 335 yards and one interception along with his four TDs, and set a school record with his fourth straight 300-yard passing game (367 vs. Rutgers; 328 vs. Michigan; 398 vs. Indiana; 335 vs. Nebraska). Cook's 335 passing yards were the most ever by a Spartan QB against Nebraska.
After setting a school record with 416 yards of total offense and throwing for a career-high 398 yards in Michigan State's 52-26 win over Indiana in Week 8, Cook was named the Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career. Cook also set career highs for pass completions (30) and pass attempts (52) against the Hoosiers and tied his career best with four TD passes. He produced some of the top single-game passing totals in school history: completions (tied for sixth with 30), pass attempts (sixth with 52), passing yards (second with 398) and TD passes (tied for second with 4). The 398 passing yards were just two shy of MSU's single-game record (Burke, 400, vs. Michigan in 1999).
Cook became just the second Spartan starting quarterback to defeat Michigan three consecutive times (Cousins, 2009-11) in MSU's 27-23 triumph at Michigan Stadium in Week 7. He threw his 60th career touchdown pass with a 30-yard strike to Macgarrett Kings Jr. in the third quarter and completed 18-of-39 passes overall for 328 yards.
Cook threw for 367 yards – the fifth-highest total in school history – and two touchdowns in the win at Rutgers in Week 6. His showing against the Scarlet Knights was named one of the "Great 8" performances of the week by the Davey O'Brien Award. With the score tied at 24 with 4:16 to play, Cook engineered a 10-play, 76-yard game-winning touchdown drive to lead MSU to a 31-24 win. His 29-yard completion on third-and-9 from the MSU 25 to Shelton kept the drive alive and led to Scott's 3-yard TD run with 43 seconds remaining in the game.
In MSU's 35-21 victory over Air Force on Sept. 19, Cook matched his career high with four TD passes and was 15-of-23 passing for 247 yards. He connected three times for scores with Burbridge, who tied MSU's single-game touchdown reception record against the Falcons and was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
Cook completed 20-of-32 throws for 192 yards and two touchdowns in the 31-28 win over No. 7 Oregon on Sept. 12 in Spartan Stadium.
The Hinckley, Ohio, native finished his career ranked among MSU's all-time leaders in touchdown passes (first with 71), passing yards (first with 9,194), total offense (first with 9,403 yards), pass attempts (first with 1,170), 300-yard passing games (tied for first with 10), 200-yard passing games (tied for first with 26), passing yards per game (second at 213.8 ypg.), pass completions (third with 673), passing efficiency (fourth with 139.8 rating) and pass completion percentage (10th at .575). In 43 career games, he completed 58 percent of his passes (673-of-1170) for 9,194 yards, 71 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. His 71 touchdowns rank seventh in Big Ten history. Cook also tied a school record, shared with Cousins and Drew Stanton, by throwing for a touchdown pass in 16 straight games (streak started vs. Illinois on Oct. 26, 2013 and was snapped at Maryland on Nov. 15, 2014). Cook, who started a school-record 36 consecutive games at quarterback (streak began on Sept. 7, 2013 vs. South Florida and ended on Nov. 21, 2015 vs. Ohio State), had two winning streaks which rank among the longest by a Spartan starting quarterback in school history (12 from Nov. 15, 2014 to Oct. 24, 2015, is second longest; 11 from Oct. 5, 2013, to Aug. 29, 2014, is third longest; record: Al Dorow, 15 in 1950-51).
Cook and Dan Enos are the only two Spartan quarterbacks to win two bowl games as the starting quarterback (Cook: 2014 Rose, 2015 Cotton; Enos: 1989 Aloha, 1990 Sun). Cook also led the Spartans on a game-winning drive in the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU. He closed his career with several Spartan bowl records, including most passing yards (903), passing attempts (128), pass completions (69), passing touchdowns (5) and total offense (875 yards) in four games, including three starts (2-1 record).
A three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, Cook earned his bachelor's degree in media and information in December 2015.