STEVENS: If You Want a Lobo Winner, Erik Cook's Your Man
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/11/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 11, 2009

Lobo Football
Brigham Young at Lobos, 12 noon
On TV: The Mtn. (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
Online: GameTracker, stats, game story on GoLobos.com
Radio: 770-AM KKOB; Lobo Radio Network

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

He looks just like the Erik Cook of yesteryears, the Erik Cook of better seasons, the Erik Cook who always has approached his job as a Lobo with high standards of work ethic and personal pride.

If you watch Cook in practice or in the live action of a Lobo game, Cook does pretty much what he has always done for four years as a Lobo. He gives honest effort. He leads by example. He battles on with chin and optimism high. He works to be a better Lobo, and to make the Lobos around him better.

Cook does it, in part, because that's his nature. He has become an All-Mountain West player, a Rimington Trophy Candidate, and a Lobo leader because of the talent in his 6-foot-6, 315-pound frame and because of what drives him from within.

He also loves being a Lobo. He wanted to follow his brother's footsteps (Ryan Cook) to the University of New Mexico and wouldn't mind following that same trail of excellence into the NFL. CollegefootballNews.com rated Cook as UNM best player on either side of the ball.

"That's my plan," Cook said of going pro. "If it happens, it happens. That would be a dream come true. Maybe I can go play with my brother or even against my brother. If it doesn't happen, I played Division One football and that's a dream come true for a lot of people, too."

Cook also is chasing a dream, of sorts, in his final season as a Lobo. Cook is a winner. He wants to go out a with a win. However, time is running out for Cook, in more ways than one. He is a senior. His Lobos are 0-9 with three tough games to go. His toughness as a Lobo is facing arguably its toughest test.

"You don't want to be remembered as part of a Lobo team that didn't win a game," said the product of Albuquerque's Cibola High. "It's been a frustrating season because you always play to win and the wins haven't been coming our way."

The Lobos' next shot at victory comes Saturday in University Stadium when the high-powered and No. 22-ranked Brigham Young Cougars come to visit. This is a BYU team coming off a 52-0 romp over a Wyoming team that beat the Lobos 37-13. UNM is not favored to win.

The Lobos close the season on Nov. 28 at TCU. This is a Horned Frogs' team that hammered BYU 28-7 -- in Provo. The Lobos will not be favored in Fort Worth. Realistically, UNM's and Cook's best shot at a win in 2009 will be Colorado State's visit on Nov. 21.

So, would a winless season mean that Cook didn't enjoy the 2009 season?

"As a senior, I'm making the most of the season because I love football, it's fun to play and I love my teammates," said Cook. ""This is my 14th season of football. It's a tough game anytime, but it's really tough, if you're not having fun.

Senior Erik Cook

"There have been some additional challenges this year and I'm trying to keep the morale of the team up and help the younger guys stay focused."

Said Lobo coach Mike Locksley: "In my 18 years of coaching, I've never been a part of a team that has displayed so much character and resolve. It starts up top from the leadership of our 17 seniors."

Cook is one of the 17. He leads with words and work ethic. He leads by example on and off the field. He also is bundling up memories from his final season as a Lobo and, as it often is with memories, they aren't isolated to scoreboards.

In Laramie, the Lobos lost 37-13. Cook still pocketed a memory from a frozen Wyoming field on which Cook told his fellow Hitmen (O-line) that there would be no sleeves worn by any Hitmen. He also gave that message to two UNM coaches, who also braved the stormy elements with no sleeves.

"I was pretty pleased with that," said Cook. "To me, an offensive lineman is supposed to be tough. Wyoming was an offensive lineman's dream. It was cold and you knew the teams were going to have to run the ball.

"I told the guys we had to be tough and go out there with no sleeves and act like nothing bothered us."

Of course, there was something about that game that bothered Cook -- the final score. And those numbers might just bother him again come Saturday vs. BYU. We'll see.

But here's a promise that will ring true for all three Lobo games, regardless of the outcome on a scoreboard. If you want to see a Lobo winner, keep your eye on Cook. He'll walk on the field that way. He'll walk off the field that way.