By Kristin Watkins
Heading into his sixth year at UVA, Malcolm Cook has relied on his passion and intense love for the game to get him in the right mindset during his collegiate career. It is a passion he would tell you comes from directly from his mom, Joyce Lewis.
“My mom is a big sports fan and me growing up, all of my baby pictures, there’s a football or a basketball somewhere,” Cook said. “In my room growing up as a kid, it was all football and basketball pictures.”
As football became Cook’s sport of choice, then came a decision of whether he preferred playing offense or defense. With his mother’s influence, that choice became an easy one to make.
“I used to love offense,” Cook said. “As you start to get older, you start to realize that you just like to tackle people, just for the fun of it. And that was my mom’s thing, she would get out in the back yard and play football with us and tackle kids. We were only playing two hand touch at the time but that was her thing. She taught us to be physical. She wanted my brothers and I to be physical. That is the main reason that I wanted to play football. She used to always like Ray Lewis, so she would always say ‘I hit you like Ray Lewis’. My mom, she is a star and that is what made us want to play defense. We were big on everything in defense, basketball and football.”
Cook looked back and remembered one particular moment in high school when he learned how tough he needed to be to play defense.
“I was playing high school ball and I got hit one time and I was down,” Cook said. “I think it was a third down play. I came off on the sideline and somehow, she had gotten over past the gate and grabbed me and said, ‘Come on now, you can’t let them hit you like that’ and I was like how did you get down here. My mom, she is a specimen and she just loves sports, is a sports junkie, and loves them to death. She has instilled that love for the game in me. That is my motivation, she is still my motivation, and she just pushes me every day. She brought me into football.”
It did not take long before the love of sports translated into a dream of one day playing in the NFL.
“I fell in love with the Redskins at a young age,” Cook said. “My mom would bring me the paper each day and I would take the pictures of players and put them up on my wall in my room. From that day on, I knew what the dream was. But she planted that seed, that this is what it takes to be out here.”
Cook’s time at Virginia has had its ups and downs due to several medical setbacks, but heading into this season he knows this is a chance to close in on that dream. The drive to get back on the field goes back to the love and support of his family.
“My mom and my family, they all keep me motivated to keep playing the game,” Cook said. “I am self-motivated as well because I love the game, I love being out there. You know, a lot of people don’t like being out there at practice. Of course, you love the games, you love the atmosphere of being out there, the screaming fans. That is probably one thing that I love.”
When Cook gets ready to go out onto the field he knows that the chance to achieve that dream would make his mother, who attends all of his games, so proud. And he couldn’t even imagine if that path would one day lead to the Washington Redskins.
“Oh, she would go nuts,” Cook said. “That would probably be one of the proudest moments of her life. Maybe not as proud as when I graduated from UVA, but another one would be me reaching that milestone that I set out to have when I was a kid. I always used to run around and pretend that I was on one of those teams when I was a kid, and my mom used to always say stuff like, ‘A dream is just a dream if you put it on paper’. You have to see it, you have to believe it, you have to know it. That is one of the things that I believe right now.”
Each day he steps out on the practice field is another chance to get better. And he continues to motivate himself to keep a positive attitude in a special way.
“I don’t tell myself that it is going to be an okay day at practice, I tell myself that I am going to have a day,” Cook said. “Every time that I’m going out there now, it is a whole different mindset, it is a mindset to go out there and get the job done, not just to survive. I think that’s just the type of mentality that I bring to the table, that you are the best and that when you are out there, no one is better than you.
In my locker, I have all of the top linebackers that they say will come out into the draft this year and I put them all in my locker just to see where everybody is and where I’m going to be among them.”
These years of growing up around sports with his mom have helped shape Cook into the person he is today and has led him to is true passion in life, football.