Truckee High grad cut by Oakland Raiders
Gary Cook’s most recent job was kind of like a summer internship, and it ended Tuesday when the Oakland Raiders waived him from their roster.
Now, with his dream profession on hold, the 2001 Truckee High graduate will hang up the pads, rest his kicking leg and shift into intellectual mode in time for the first day of school at University of Nevada, Las Vegas Monday.
While such an abrupt demotion might seem disheartening, Cook is not bummed at all.
“Actually,” he said by phone Wednesday, “the situation may work out pretty well.”
That’s because the Raiders are sending him to play in NFL Europe, where, assuming he makes the cut, he will remain under the organization’s name while joining one of six teams: Berlin Thunder, Amsterdam Admirals, Cologne Centurions, Hamburg Sea Devils, Frankfurt Galaxy or Rhein Fire.
And with two more classes to knock out before attaining his degree in construction management, the NFL Europe schedule ” which starts in January, with a season that stretches from April 2 to June 11 ” is favorable for Cook.
“They (the Raiders) want me to get a little more game experience in,” Cook said, optimistic that he’ll rejoin the team that signed him to a free-agent contract in May. “They released me from the roster, but will probably pick me back up when that time comes.”
Punting proficiently in three pre-season games for injured Pro Bowler Shane Lechler, Cook raised his stock considerably since his senior season at UNLV a year ago, where he was among the top 10 in the nation at his position. And the knowledge he gained while rubbing shoulders with one of the premier punters in the game ” as well as with Pro Bowl field goal and place kicker Sebastian Janikowski ” was a huge gain.
“With Shane (Lechler) being one of the best punters in the NFL, I’ve learned so much,” Cook said. “I’ve improved a lot. I’ll be ready to go (in January).”
No matter what the future has in store for the 22-year-old punter (and kicker), the past few months forever will be ingrained in his memory.
“It was an experience I’ll never forget,” Cook said. “It was awesome. A lot of fun.”
Gary Cook played two seasons at Truckee High School for coach Bob Shaffer before graduating in 2001 and heading to University of Nevada, Las Vegas to pursue a degree in construction management.
Walking on to the football team at UNLV, Cook quickly swiped the starting job as punter and was given a full-ride scholarship.
During his four-year tenure with the Running Rebels, Cook set Mountain West Conference records with 281 punts for 11,430 yards. His senior season (2004-05) Cook was one of 10 semifinalists in the nation nominated for the Ray Guy Award, presented by the Raiders’ former star punter.
Although he did not win the award, Cook received calls from several NFL teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants. But it was the Raiders who signed him to a free-agent contract shortly after the draft, in part because Cook could place kick and make field goals in addition to punting.
In three pre-season games Cook punted six times, averaging 36 yards per punt, with a 44-yarder as his longest and three downed inside the 20 yard line. He also kicked off once and made an extra point.
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.