Arrow-right Camera

Cook always smiling

Eastern senior ‘utility player’ a key member of defense

A year from now, Evan Cook sees himself with a whistle in his mouth instead of a mouthpiece, coaching the game he’s played most of his life.

So how would Cook, the coach, scout Cook, the senior defensive tackle at Eastern Washington?

He ponders the question.

“Hmm, not the best athlete, just a good football player, and guy who gives full effort and still has fun while playing football, something the game nowadays kind of lacks,” he said.

That self-assessment reveals a lot about one of the key members of the Eastern defense, who had his 15th career start last week in a dominating, 20-3 win at Idaho. Others agree.

“He’s been an absolute joy to coach and he always has a smile on his face,” Eastern defensive line coach Ryan Sawyer said. “And of course he plays really well.”

Cook was an all-conference selection at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash., where he played “a little bit of everything – defensive end, tackle, linebacker, nose tackle” – perfect for a future coach.

He’s also been Mr. Versatile at Eastern, a school he chose more than anything because of “the closeness of the team, a place where I feel I can hang out with anyone.”

As a redshirt freshman, he started 10 games at defensive end. The following year, he started three games before suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him while the Eagles went on to win the national title.

Cook would love to see another title, this time with him on the field.

“That would be great to be a part of it,” he said. “(In 2010) I was sitting there hoping and praying for our team to win, but also wished I could contribute.”

He’s still contributing at both positions.

“He’s been with me all five years,” Sawyer said. “And he’s been my go-to guy being utilty player, and even now from time to time will go out and play at end.”

The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Cook certainly doesn’t mind a change of pace.

“The tight ends aren’t so heavy,” he jokes. “Inside, those 300-pounders take their toll.”

Against Idaho, Cook and the rest of the line stood up just fine, pressuring Vandals quarterback Logan Bushnell while holding the Football Bowl Subdivision Vandals to just 73 yards rushing. Cook had four tackles.

“We don’t really look at it like playing up,” Cook said while contemplating an even bigger game Saturday at Washington State. “But (the Idaho game) set the tone and let us know that we can do it.”

Actually, the tone was set earlier in spring and fall camp by Sawyer, who Cook says “always brings intensity, but this year he’s broken things down more, paying attention to things we need to pay attention to. We go through the drills and rep them until we know them.”

That includes the rest of the line, including tackle Andru Pulu, a transfer from Washington, and ends Evan Day, Paul Ena, David Gaylord and Jerry Ceja.

“We’ve worked more on our pass rush,” Cook said. “We’ve all just turned it up a notch. You sit back they’re gonna get you out of the pocket. We’ve worked really hard on getting off the ball to penetrate, and knowing our roles.”

Spoken like a coach.

Hamlin gets nod

Eastern linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, who had eight tackles in the Eagle’s 20-3 win over Idaho, is the Big Sky co-defensive player of the week.

Hamlin shares the honor with Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp.