When Jameel Cook Jr. puts his college jersey on in the fall of 2015, he will not be the first member of his family to wear a "Big Ten" patch across his chest. Cook Jr., a safety from Ridge Point High School in Missouri City, Texas, committed to the University of Maryland on June 20, following in his father's footsteps to play in the Big Ten.
Jameel Cook Sr. played fullback for Illinois from 1998-2000 and went on to win a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001. Cook Jr. says Maryland's move to the Big Ten made a major impact on his decision to commit there. Playing football for the Terps gives Cook Jr. an opportunity to build upon his father's legacy within the Big Ten conference.
"My dad played in the Big Ten when he was at Illinois so I grew up watching the Big Ten a lot," Cook Jr. said. "[Committing to a Big Ten school] was pretty personal."
The 6'0", 181-pound safety recruit played linebacker his first three years of high school, but with the help of his dad and the Maryland coaching staff, Cook will make the transition to safety at the college level.
"He always told me I was a tweener; he always told me I was going to be in between safety and linebacker," Cook Jr. said of his father. "He's worked me hard and helped me get to where I'm at now.... With my decision [to go to Maryland], he just wants me to be happy with myself."
Cook says he became first interested in Maryland when he got a call from Maryland Defensive Coordinator Brian Stewart, who offered him a scholarship back in February. Cook's commitment to the Terrapins also has ties to Wide Receivers Coach Keenan McCardell, another Texas native and who played with Jameel Cook Sr. on the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers team.
Cook Jr. says his discussions with the Terps' coaching staff regarding his future role with the team weigh heavily on his versatility. He plans to play safety in high school for his senior season to help smooth the transition.
"Coach Stewart wants me to be a playmaker," Cook Jr. said. "He wants me to learn and be able to play every position in the backfield-from cornerback to nickel back and strong safety to free safety-he wants me to be able to do it all."
The three-star recruit according to the 247sports composite says Stewart not only wants him to be able to play all over the field, but he wants him to do it right away.
"He wants me to come in and make an impact early," Cook Jr. said of Stewart. "I'm not going to be one of those guys who doesn't play. He expects me to get in freshman year and be playing."
Cook Jr. attended Maryland's "Big Show" event in June, the only visit he has made to College Park. During the event he met with current Maryland wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long to talk about the team's future in the Big Ten.
"They're excited to be in the Big Ten," Cook Jr. said of his future teammates. "They're going out and competing and it'll be their first year so you want to win. But you've got to get used to it. [The Big Ten] is a different ball game."