Dallas Cook is looking at Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game as almost a family reunion before he even leaves home.
Cook, the recent Butte High graduate, will leave at the end of this month for the North Dakota State College of Science, a junior college in Wahpeton, North Dakota that is a 13-hour drive from Butte, to play quarterback for the Wildcats.
First he will captain and quarterback the West team in Saturday’s showdown with the East in Laurel.
“It’s probably one of the last times I’ll play in front of my whole family,” said Cook, who has two younger brothers to carry on his legacy in Butte athletics. His brother Dylan will be a junior at Butte High, and he is also a quarterback.
“Dylan plays on Fridays and Saturdays it’s a long drive every week,” Cook said. “It’s an insane drive to do every weekend, so it’s probably the last time I’ll play in front of them. I’m pretty excited about that.”
Dallas Cook is also looking forward to the game that will likely be his finale in the state of Montana.
Cook and the NDSCS Wildcats open the season Aug. 23 at Itasca Community College in Minnesota. He will presumably be the starter for the team that runs basically the same offense that Butte High runs.
It is also the same offense run by Washington State, and that is no coincidence.
Cook signed with NDSCS with an eye on making a quick transfer to WSU to play for coach Mike Leach. NDSCS coach Merle Johnson has ties to Leach, who recruited Cook out of Butte High.
Cook also talked to Oregon before signing with the junior college. He could have signed with other schools, but he knew Washington State was the fit for him. However, Cook said when a scholarship fell through when quarterback Connor Halliday decided to stay in Pullman for one final season, he was directed toward the junior college.
“The only reason I didn’t get the full thing from Washington State was because, I think, Connor Halliday decided to stay for his fifth year,” Cook said. “If he would have left, it would have been me. But he decided to stay so I had to go somewhere and play.”
It didn’t take long for Cook to realize that Leach, an offensive guru, was the coach he wanted to play for.
“I finally found a coach who wasn’t just saying the same stuff to others. He just wanted me,” Cook said. “Leach is a funny guy. When we went on our visit there, he came in and talked to us and had just hair everywhere, shorts and a shirt.”
Cook drew the attention of the coach by basically rewriting the record book at Butte High. It would take less time to say which records he didn’t break than the ones he did.
In 2012, Cook led Butte High to the Class AA state title, earning Class AA MVP honors along the way.
Last season he was named the Offensive Player of the Year for Montana by the USA Today.
As a senior, Cook put up unreal numbers, passing for 4,145 yards and 40 touchdowns. He also ran for 866 yards and 16 touchdowns.
His final game in a Butte High football uniform saw Cook registered 446 total yards in a 62-55 playoff loss at Kalispell Glacier. He rushed for six TDs and threw for one.
Making those stats even more impressive is the fact that Cook played the entire 2013 season with multiple injuries to his foot.
He suffered a turf toe and then a stress fracture in the side of his foot.
“I got turf to so I walk like this,” Cook said, demonstrating walking on the outside of his left foot. “In the first game I ran like that, so that bone just kind of gave. I was in a walking boots during the week, and on Friday night I’d put on cleats.”
Cook said the injury didn’t slow him down, though.
“It hurt after the play and in some games it would just bug me,” he said. “During the play, it’s the last thing you’re thinking of.”
Still, that is a lot to go through for a quarterback who is as deadly with his legs as he is with his left arm.
“I like running the ball,” Cook says. “I won’t do it first off if I don’t have to. I just do it when I have to.”
Mobility in the pocket is perhaps the strength of Cook’s game.
“I think just being able to move around in the pocket,” he said. “You can get of the pocket and you can still create enough to get a receiver open and throw the ball to him.”
It was his mobility that took his game to the next level in Butte High’s 2012 semifinal win over Great Falls Russell at Naranche Stadium.
Cook ran for two touchdowns, ran for a 2-point conversion and passed for another 2-point conversion to erase a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit and force overtime.
In the first overtime, Cook ran for a TD on a draw for the victory.
“It was a great ride. It was pretty fun,” Cook said. “I didn’t know it would be that fun. Even if we didn’t win it junior year it was enough getting to that semifinal game. I thought that was the best game I ever seen that Saturday. Then Friday (the state title game) comes along and it’s just ‘Wow.'”
Cook said the Bulldogs finally got used to playing in the cold in the semifinal game revival. They also let the words of coach Arie Grey hit home.
“His half time speech really set hard,” Cook said. “He said, ‘It’s your guys’ choice. This could be our last game and we can go on with our lives or we can play another week.’ It kind of set in.”
After playing at NDSCS and possibly Washington State, Cook has his sights set at playing in the National Football League.
Cook, who stayed humble even though the yellow “Honey Badger” hairdo the last two football season, likes his chances of accomplishing that goal.
“If I just play like I know how to play, I should have no problem,” Cook said. “I try not to sound cocky right now. You just have to play your game and you should be fine.”
Cook said he strives to stay grounded despite his success on the football field.
“My parents always tell me to stay humble and respect, and that’s what I do,” he said. That is evident in the fact that his teammates voted Cook as one of four captains for Saturday’s game.
As practice winds down for the Shrine Game, Cook also seems like a good fit in coach Tony Arntson’s offensive scheme. Arntson is the head coach of Helena High.
“It’s not really so much different, it’s just different terminology,” Cook said of the offense. “Once you break the terminology barrier, it’s fine. He’s made it as easy as possible. We maybe have 100 plays, and he’s only opened up about 20 percent of his play book.”
So Cook is expecting big things in the game with his parents and brothers in the crowd Saturday night.
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun game.”
NDSCS plays its first home game on Thursday, Aug. 28, against Maryville Junior College. The next night, Butte High plays its season opener at Billings Senior.
“I think that’s the only game my parents go to,” Cook said.
A few years from now, Cook is hoping the travel plans will be a lot easier for his family to get together when he plays on Sundays.
“That,” Cook said, “has been my goal since I was like 4.”
Note: ButteSports.com will profile all seven Butte players on the West roster before Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game. Other Butte Westside players are Peter Granger and Johnny Walker from Butte High, and Wyatt Kingston, Connor Schulte, Connor McGree and Kale Guldseth from Butte Central.