DECATUR (WCIA) — Denim Cook will never forget how his high school career ended.
“I’m at peace with it now, but for three days, it killed me,” says Cook. “I could’ve ran a little harder.”
A 2-point loss to Nashville in the 2A semifinal kept the Bulldogs from reaching their first State Championship game in 5 years, but knowing he cemented his legacy as one of the program’s best is still plenty to hang his hat on.
“It feels pretty great knowing that people have really appreciated what I’ve done here,” says Cook. “I couldn’t get a championship, but I knew what I had to come here and do, and I felt like I’ve done that, and it’s going to travel down with the other running backs.”
It wasn’t easy for Cook follow in the footsteps of the Bulldogs’ all-time leading rusher in Jacardia Wright, but after playing nose guard his freshman year Cook took over as the starting back. While playing both sides of the ball this season, he finished his career with more than 5,400 rushing yards and 76 touchdowns, while leading the Bulldogs to an 18-game win streak starting last spring.
“I always think a program first starts with hard work, and he’s never shied away from that,” says head coach Mark Ramsey. “He’s just a football player, I mean you could put him at middle linebacker, you could put him at defensive end, you could put him at nose tackle.”
“A lot came into it that people don’t really see,” says Cook. “But I put a lot of effort into this year.”
And that effort isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The Top-20 All-Time IHSA rusher is still training through the offseason with goals of playing in college. He says he’s happy with where the recruiting process is at right now, but the two-time all state back didn’t give any hints to where might be headed next.
“Just know that football is not over for me,” says Cook. “I want to head to the next level, and play more competitive football.”
“Just knowing him and his work habits, and he’s leadership, I think he’s going to step in somewhere and give a program a boost,” says Ramsey.
And wherever the game takes him next, he’ll do it as the 2021 WCIA 3 Football Player of the Year.
2021: Denim Cook, St. Teresa
2020 (21): Bryson Boes, Maroa-Forsyth
2019: Jacob Paradee, Central A&M
2018: Jacardia Wright, St. Teresa
2017: Mitch McNutt, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
2016: Caleb Hanson, Monticello
2015: Wyatt Fishel, Arcola
2014: Jack Hockaday, Maroa-Forsyth
2013: Steve Isbell, Cerro Gordo-Bement