It’s rare that a team’s backup quarterback can cultivate a fandom of their own, but that is exactly what Detroit Lions quarterback Connor Cook will have entering this summer.
Cook was a three-year starter at Michigan State University between 2013-2015. He led the Spartans to two Big Ten championships, a Rose Bowl victory and the team's lone College Football Playoff appearance in 2015. He left East Lansing as the school’s all-time leader in quarterback wins.
Now he has joined the Lions, and will be playing games less than a two-hour drive away from the campus where he etched his name into history.
“There are some other spots I could have went but being back in Michigan really struck home with me and I wanted to be back here. So it’s why I’m a Lion,” Cook told reporters over the weekend of his return to football in the Great Lakes state.
Geography is not the only thing that feels familiar for Cook. He compares the coaching style of Lions head coach Matt Patricia to legendary Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio.
“The times that Coach [Dantonio] would run us after practice and in the middle of practice. Coach Patricia does the exact same thing. He’s hard on his guys, but in the right way,” he said. “He really gets the most out of his guys and that’s exactly what coach Dantonio did. He knew how to push certain players, what to say, how to motivate them, and I see that a lot in coach Patricia.”
Cook was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft, and spent his first two years in the league backing up quarterback Derek Carr. He was let go by the Raiders late in the 2018 offseason when they acquired AJ McCarron.
The quarterback spent 2018 between the practice squads of the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals, and now hopes to make an active roster for the first time in over a year.
He has an entire summer to battle for the back up role behind Matthew Stafford, but for now he is focused on being the best teammate possible for Stafford.
“I think it’s crucial. Not only as a quarterback but as any position. You’re a teammate, and you should support your teammate no matter who they are, they’re your brothers,” he said.
The dialogue between the two is ever present, and Cook is taking every opportunity he gets to communicate and learn from Detroit’s long term starter.
“All day,” he answered when asked how often he talks to Stafford. “After he comes off the field. Talk in meetings. Talk in the locker room. It’s just a never-ending conversation of ball.”
Cook should be a popular guy at Lions training camp next month. He already has existing rapport with fans, but an NFL camp battle is more than just a popularity contest. The former Spartan will be competing with former Houston Texans starting quarterback and 2014 fourth-round pick Tom Savage for the spot behind Stafford, and it could prove to be a fierce battle.