In a 56-7 loss to Colorado, Josh Cook hauled in a four-yard pass that launched him into the Idaho State University record books for most career receiving yards by a tight end in school history, a record previously held by current New Orleans Saints tight end, Josh Hill.
“I didn’t even know what play it happened,” said Cook, a redshirt senior. “We lost, so I wasn’t too happy about it, but it was a cool experience.”
Two weeks later, Cook broke his career high in receiving yards (118), Hill’s career high for receiving yards is 123, both players posted their career bests against Sacramento State.
“My dad texted me the yards after the game and I was shocked,” Cook said. “Four years, and my first 100-yard game.”
Cook stepped onto campus during Hill’s senior season and got to see first-hand how an NFL prospect handles himself both on and off the field. Cook watched, learned and duplicated everything he saw. While Cook reshirted, Hill tore up the Big Sky Conference, hauling in 70 passes for 630 yards, averaging nine yards-per-catch and scoring five touchdowns.
Hill, a Blackfoot native, is now in his fourth season with the Saints. He has started 13 games with 340 career receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
“I came here and looked up to him,” Cook said. “I try to be just like him.”
The once wide-eyed freshmen, whose main goal was keeping his scholarship for the next season, is now the school’s starting tight end, and on paper, one of the best the school has ever seen – even better than Hill.
“We were just trying to be on the team for next year,” Cook said. “Now, being a senior, it is kind of crazy being that guy I once looked up to.”
“He has been a sturdy-steady guy,” said head coach Mike Kramer. “He can catch the ball and he can run with the ball, unlike most tight ends. Most tight ends, at any level, are big guys that have a hard time being in the open field and [Cook] is a guy who is comfortable in the open field.”
Cook has posted career-high numbers that aren’t far off from where Hill was when he was a senior. Despite this, Cook says he has a long way to go to be the next Josh Hill.
“He is a beast,” Cook said. “If I can get to his level one day, I’ll be happy. He is a next level guy. He worked out every day. I work out two, maybe three times a week.”
At 6’3”, 220, Cook is smaller than the 6’5” 250 Hill, forcing Cook to be creative in ways that bigger tight ends such as Hill don’t have to. In order to be an NFL-caliber tight end, Cook needs to gain weight as Hill did. Hill weighed 229 his senior season, nine pounds heavier than Cook currently is.
“They are both really similar wide receivers that have learned to play tight end,” Kramer said. “Josh Hill had a little bit of a bigger frame and was able to add some weight as he went into the NFL. Josh Cook has struggled to put on weight.”
Cook knows that to make it to the next level, he will have to add some weight, but the Los Angeles native is determined to get there.
“Offseason, I for sure have to put on 15 to 20 more pounds,” Cook said. “They [have] dudes that are 6’8”, 6’9” playing tight end and I am a little short guy.”
Kramer has figured out ways to use Cook’s smaller build to his advantage by flanking Cook out into the slot, an area where Cook says he is more comfortable.
“I have been playing receiver since my freshman year of high school,” Cook explained. “I’ll put my hand down if I have to.”
The new system uses more tight ends, opening an opportunity for Cook, other tight ends and fullback that were once an afterthought in the spread attack to shine in the spotlight.
Although KW Williams is still the go-to guy, Cook has found open space in the middle and short-range passing game.
“I just try to get my catches in whenever I can,” Cook said. “I am not the number one read most of the time.”
Cook says that he is content with playing professionally anywhere, whether it be the NFL, CFL or somewhere in Europe.
“Five years, I see myself off the coast of Europe, on a yacht,” Cook said. “No kids, no wife – just my friends.”