Junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks breaking Oregon State records this season, credits his mother as inspiration
Brandin Cooks is having a season for the ages. It started in Northern California, where he grew up.
“My pop passed when I was 6,” Cooks said.
His mother, Andrea, raised four boys as a single parent after his father, Worth, died of a heart attack.
“(She would) go to work, make sure food was on the table, and still drive us to school and stuff like that,” Cooks said.
He was born and raised in Stockton, Calif., and came to Oregon State after decommitting from UCLA.
As a true freshman in 2011, he started his first career collegiate football game when James Rodgers was still recovering from knee surgery.
Two years later, he’s leading the NCAA in every major receiving statistic.
If you ask anyone in OSU’s camp if they’re surprised about Cooks’ ascension, they would tell you, “not at all.”
It comes from work ethic.
Standing just 5-foot-10, he doesn’t have the prototypical size of a wide receiver. He relies on speed and quickness to get open, as well as hard work.
“What’s great about Brandin is how willing he is to work hard,” said junior quarterback Sean Mannion. “Throughout the offseason, we made a point to throw five or six days a week. When fall camp started, we had already thrown 1,000 balls to each other.”
College football teams can’t hold team practice until fall camp in August. The extra work between Mannion and Cooks throughout the summer was all voluntary.
Mannion hadn’t been named the starting quarterback and Cooks had never been a No. 1 receiver.
Markus Wheaton, OSU’s leading receiver for two years, graduated in June.
“Everyone was nervous about it,” said wide receivers coach Brent Brennan. “Everybody in the world asked me those questions about losing Markus, of course. We just lost arguably the best receiver in the history of our school.”
But Cooks was undeterred.
He didn’t shy away from the spotlight.
“He is the best practice player I’ve ever coached,” Brennan said. “He takes everything so seriously: every rep, every opportunity to improve. The biggest thing about him is his focus, his desire to be a great player. That’s what makes him really special.”
The practice paid off. This year, the junior receiver is already tied for most touchdown receptions in Oregon State history, and if he gains 357 more receiving yards in the final five games, he’ll own the record for the most in a single season.
With how he’s played so far, the record looks all but locked up.
He has a chance at becoming one of Oregon State’s legends, if he isn’t already, joining the likes of James Newson, Mike Hass, Chad Johnson and others who have a permanent place in Oregon State folklore.
He leads the country in receptions (76), receiving yards (1,176) and receiving touchdowns (12). No other receiver in the nation is within 152 yards, nine receptions or a touchdown of him.
Cooks is in a class of his own — a class he learned to earn 15 years ago.
He hasn’t forgotten about how he got here.
“I feel like if she can do the things she didn’t want to do,” Cooks said, “I can do something that I love.”
Mitch Mahoney, sports reporter
On Twitter @MitchIsHere