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Gently Sidestepping Grandpa's Blitz, Cook Chose Huskies

The UW safety grew up near the Bay Area and felt pressure to play for the Bears.

Had he played his college football for the University of California, this week's Husky opponent, Alex Cook would have received free rent and the use of a truck. He could have put a whole closet full of Bears sweatshirts to good use. 

Now before you go call the NCAA and report all of these somewhat modest inducements, but inducements just the same, please be advised that the Bay Area school had nothing to do with it.

Melvin Cook, who lives down the street from UC-Berkeley, was the go-between here. He tried his persuasive best to get his grandson, then a promising wide receiver and now a University of Washington starting safety, to play for the Golden Bears.

The offer was room and board. A vehicle. Good companionship.

"I feel I was brainwashed to go to that school a little bit," the personable Alex Cook told media members with a laugh this week.

While his grandfather resides in Berkeley, the football player grew up in Sacramento, played for Sheldon High School and developed into someone worthy of scholarship offers from the UW, Michigan, UCLA, Oregon and Utah, among others.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Cook has experienced a most unusal career so far in Seattle. He spent two seasons as a Husky wide receiver, working his way up to starter for just one game — the 2019 Rose Bowl against Ohio State.

Safety has been more rewarding as a three-season assignment, but a big challenge just the same. A year ago, he opened at free safety for three of the pandemic-shortened four games before getting replaced against Stanford by All-Pac-12 selection Elijah Molden, who moved over from nickelback that day to give things a boost.

This season, Cook got beat out by redshirt freshman Kamren Fabiculanan to start the opener at safety against Montana, but he reclaimed the job for the Michigan and Arkansas State games. He played well enough against the Sun Belt school, even blocked a first-half punt, but he knows better than to get too comfortable where he's at, with the safeties, continually in flux.

"We're still competing right now and nobody's job is safe at the end of the day," Cook said. "Even though I'm starting right now, Asa Turner and all those guys, if I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, they're next guys up. They know that and I know that."

While the offer of hanging out with grandpa was something to consider, Cook has never regretted coming to the UW, even with all of the position shuffling for him.

He never once considered transferring out and going elsewhere, such as back to Cal.  A different set of family reasons cemented his stay in Seattle.

"What keeps me staying here, man, is honestly the brotherhood," Cook said of the Husky defensive backs. "All of these guys are my best friends. These are the guys I'm going to have in my marriage some day, some of them will be my best man, groomsmen, whatever that might be."

Cook, who grew up wearing Cal sweatshirts wherever he went, looks forward to leaving his purple jersey imprint on more than a few of the Golden Bears. 

He anticipates a physical game with the Berkeley school bringing in their big backs and overload personnel sets. It's what drives him now.

"At the end of day it's football," Cook said. "You've got to put your big-boy pads on. At a certain point, you just can't just always drop back into coverage. You've got to put your big-boy pads on, put your working hat on and go hit something. That is why I switched over — is to hit somebody. I love it. Just like Michigan, they wanted to run the football, fine, let's do it."

The safety expects several family members to be in the stands for Saturday night's game. He's been good-naturedly trading insults with other relatives who happen to be Cal grads. 

As for his grandfather, Melvin Cook, everything is good between them. The older man previously toured the UW campus with his grandson during recruiting and fully approved of his college decision way back then. 

"I actually brought him up for my official visit, he was the main one," Alex Cook said. "It was, 'OK, I understand.' " 

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