Omar Cook may have been overlooked in the NFL Draft; but with the help of his parent, LA Kiss coach Grady Tucker Jr, Cook sets his sights on a NFL career.
Omar Cook and Coach Grady Tucker, Jr at Southern University Senior Day—aka. Proud Parent Day. (Photo Credits: Coach Tucker)
(C+P) — There have been many great father-son combinations in the history of professional football: Bum and Wade Phillips; Howie and Chris Long; Archie, Peyton, and Eli Manning.
Well, fans may have another one to add to the list—coach Grady Tucker, Jr. and safety Omar Cook.
Tucker is the defensive line coach and director of scouting for the Los Angeles Kiss of the Arena Football League; Cook is a defensive back for the Billings Wolves who originally made a name for himself as a breakout safety his senior year with the Southern Jaguars.
“Omar Cook is a guy that stays in the film room. He studies the game and knows the game and the game plan,” said Southern University head coach Dawson Odums when asked about Cook at the beginning of his senior season. “And that’s a tremendous asset to have in the secondary because they are the last line of defense. He’s a guy that’s getting to an opportunity to play, and he’s starting to make big plays for us.”
In his senior year, Cook led the Jags to a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship with his team-leading three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Quite the season for a first-year starter. As if that weren’t enough, Cook did all of this while balancing football with school, earning his diploma two weeks after the season ended.
“We always talked about his plans,” said Coach Tucker. “Omar knew he needed a plan A, plan B, plan C, and a plan for every other letter. Plan A of course was to graduate with a degree that could translate well into the real world, and he did that with his Mass Communications and Broadcasting degree.”
With his cap and gown on and a diploma in hand, Cook set his sights toward his next goal—an NFL career. After his graduation, Cook began a strict two-a-day workout regime near his hometown Irvine, Calif. in order to bulk up for the big leagues. He did just that: only a few weeks later, Cook had put on 13 pounds of muscle, jumping from 192 to 205.
Despite his outstanding year and impressive gains, Cook was not invited to the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Instead, Cook attended a regional workout at the Seattle Seahawks facility with more than 250 other NFL-hopefuls. Cook made quite the splash there with a 10 foot 6 inch broad jump and a vertical leap of 39.5 inches—the second-highest among everyone in the region.
“He thought he’d get a look, but that didn’t end up happening,” said Tucker. “Being overlooked just motivated him even more to exceed his own number, and exceed the numbers of the players in the combine.”
Cook had his eyes locked on a professional football career, and with a parent already in the pros to help him along the way he never had doubt he could find a job. Tucker has been right there with him throughout the whole process:
“He’s definitely a big help,” said Omar about his parent. “He knows the game well, so when I need someone to look at my film and tell me what I’m doing wrong I can just go to him; and he’ll be able to tell me better than most people.”
Unfortunately, when the 2014 NFL Draft rolled around, Cook never heard his name called. Despite numbers as good as or better than a lot of safeties who were drafted, Cook was forced to look for employment in one of the other professional football leagues.
“I just saw it as another obstacle in my way,” said Omar. “I knew I just had to keep working hard. I knew I could make it in another league and continue to work for my opportunity.”
As an assistant for the LA Kiss, Coach Tucker understood what Omar would need in order to make it in the big leagues; and with some help from his parent, Omar began working on his speed and agility in preparation for multiple workouts with various CFL, AFL, and IFL organizations.
At a workout for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL, Cook saw the fruits of his labor—a vertical jump of 40.5 inches and a broad jump of 10 feet 8 inches. While this jump wasn’t much of an improvement on Cook’s old numbers, it gave him better numbers than any safety in the 2014 Draft Class as well as better numbers than the majority of players in the NFL.
“He was actually upset by the 40.5 inch jump,” Tucker recalls. “He told me, ‘Man, I touched the next stick, but it didn’t move it.’ He’s always motivated by something.”
Cook was eventually signed by the Nebraska Danger of the IFL before being traded to the Billings Wolves soon after the start of the 2015 season. Although he normally only plays in the first half of games, Cook is averaging almost five tackles per game. He also had a safety in the Wolves Week 5 matchup against the Colorado Ice.
Clearly Omar Cook has what it takes to make it on a professional circuit. Coming out of a small football program may have hindered him at first; however, there is no doubt that his talent and work ethic will soon land him on the NFL’s radar. On top of that, he will always have Coach Tucker there to help him out:
“Every time we talk, we have two separate discussions. We have a parent-to-son talk and then a coach-to-player talk. That way there’s no excuses. I tell him what he needs to improve on in a loving way but at the same time keep time motivated. Every day I tell him, ‘You’re a pro. You’re a pro. And every time I hear something about you, it should be “He’s a pro.”’”
Nothing beats a father’s guidance, especially when that father is a professional football coach.