The eyes of Bulldog fans nearly popped out of their heads as they looked onto the grass of Naranche Stadium on Aug. 29, 2015.
You could have sworn that a member of the Lollipop Guild was lined up at quarterback for the Butte High Bulldogs.
They were expecting to see Dylan Cook, Butte High’s monster of a senior quarterback with a golden right arm. Instead, Ty Peterson was ready to take the snap.
The roster said Peterson was 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds. The roster lied.
Because he was replacing Cook, Peterson looked like a kindergartner behind center. In reality, he was a rather normal size for a sophomore in high school. He just looked tiny next to a mammoth quarterback like Cook.
Not only was Cook considerably bigger than the average high school quarterback, he was really good.
In 2012, Cook’s older brother Dallas led the Bulldogs to the Class AA state title. Dallas was a junior that season, and he said that he was worried that he would not be able to beat his brother, then a freshman, out for the starting job as a senior.
Dallas was only kind of joking because Dylan really was that promising.
While the younger Cook probably did not have the top-end speed of his brother, he was a punishing runner. You would feel sorry for any defender trying to tackle him. Going into his senior season,
Dylan Cook also threw a beautiful deep ball. It was even better than the one his brother threw when he rewrote the Butte High record book during his remarkable career.
Here is what Pat Ryan wrote about Dylan Cook in a story previewing Butte High’s 2015 season for Butte Sports:
“At 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, Cook could be successful on the line, but his abilities in the backfield show that he’s in the right spot. A cannon for an arm and a powerful running style leave defenses befuddled.”
In 2015, Butte High looked like it was going to have a really good team. The Bulldogs seemed poised for a deep playoff run with Cook throwing to receivers like Paul Campbell and Kiley Caprara.
In all, Butte High returned 25 lettermen and 18 players who started at least one game from its losing, but competitive 4-6 campaign of 2014.
Butte High closed the 2014 season on a high, too. The Bulldogs beat archrival Bozeman 34-21 at Naranche Stadium, and they were ready to roll in 2015.
Then, disaster struck in the first quarter of Butte High’s first game of the season. In a matter of a few plays, Campbell, who was Cook’s backup at quarterback, tore up his knee and Cook busted his collarbone on his right side.
Bulldog Nation was heartbroken. They did not think they would see Cook play football again.
Peterson never dreamed he would appear in a varsity game that night or that season, but there he was behind the center on Butte’s biggest stage. Nine months of high expectations fell on his much smaller shoulders.
The young Peterson, who went on to become a heck of a defensive back and the best pole vaulter in Butte High history, put up a valiant effort. However, Butte High’s promising season was toast. The overtime win over Skyview in the opener was Butte High’s only win in a 1-9 season.
Cook, who actually threw one pass after breaking his collarbone, watched the second half with his throwing arm in a sling and an ice pack on his shoulder. You could not help but worry about his college football prospects, figuring a strong senior season might get the attention of the likes of the Bobcats and Grizzlies.
Unfortunately, those fears were proven to be correct. The big-time opportunities never came to Cook. He did go on to play college football, but he did it in what at the time was football hell.
He went to MSU-Northern in Havre.
After Northern officials made the ill-advised move of forcing out successful head coach Mark Samson just before the 2014 season, the Lights football program fell into an abyss. It dropped so low that it is still trying to climb out of the hole.
On Oct. 21, 2017, Cook came back to his hometown as a member of what might be the worst Frontier Conference football team in the last 50 years.
Montana Tech beat the Lights 93-19 in a game that was not even remotely as close as the score might indicate. Tech led 35-0 at the end of the first quarter and 66-0 at halftime.
ESPN’s SportsCenter took note of the lopsided win that saw Tech play with third- and fourth-string players.
Northern’s head coach, who was not long for the job, kept opting to throw the ball, which kept stopping the clock, as the Lights went three and out on nearly every drive. That only prolonged the beating the Orediggers were trying so hard not to give.
Cook saw time in relief in that game, completing all five of his passes for yards. He also ran seven times for 55 yards.
He was a bright spot on a team void of bright spots.
That nightmare of a season did not kill Cook’s college football dream, but it ended his days as a quarterback. The next year, Cook left Northern and enrolled at the University of Montana. He walked on to the football team, ready to play whatever position needed.
Four games into the 2019 season, the former quarterback took over as starting right tackle for the Grizzlies.
The number of college players who went from quarterback to offensive tackle can probably meet in a broom closet. That is a move you just do not see.
The Grizzly roster lists Cook at 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds. He is incredibly athletic for such a big man. He has great footwork and an understanding of the game that perhaps only a quarterback could possess.
Cook is smart, too. In addition to earning a Phil Steele Preseason All-Big Sky honor, he is the Grizzlies’ nomination for the William Campbell Trophy. That is also know as the “Academic Heisman.”
On Sept. 4, Cook was part Montana’s monumental 13-7 win over then-No. 20 University of Washington. The win, which is undoubtedly one of the biggest in school history, put the Grizzlies on the national map, and it got some eyes on players like Cook.
Ryan Roberts scouts college football players for RiseNDraft.com, and he took notice of Cook. Here is Roberts tweeted about the former Butte High Bulldog:
“Montana (offensive tackle) Dylan Cook is one of my favorite sleeper (offensive linemen) in the 2022 class. Began his career as a QB at Montana State University Northern.
“He’s now a massive OL (6’6 5/8, 309 pounds) who is one of the better run blockers in the class. Nasty demeanor. Draftable player (in my opinion).”
Imagine if he played on the offensive line from the start.
Dylan Cook has emerged from football hell, and he could be on his way to the National Football League. At the very least, he will get some really good looks.
Bulldog fans who missed out watching him play in 2015 just might get to follow Dylan Cook on their television screens for years to come.
— Bill Foley, who is not a dues-paying member of the Lollipop Guild, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74