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From the Pressbox: Weekend a homecoming for Tommy Cook

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Homecoming weekend for the University of Kentucky doesn't show up until later on the football schedule. But for Tommy Cook, it happens this Saturday.

Cook returns to his alma mater as the first-year Director of Football Operations for Kent State University's football program.

"It's pretty much everything on and off the lines of football, from team travel to being the liaison for academics and compliance, to running the budget for the football program, keeping up donor relations and things of that nature," Cook said of the job description. "It's pretty much everything that goes unseen, that gets to the game and gets the team there. You work hand-in-hand with the head coach, to make sure everything is running as smoothly as he wants it run.

"I am very thankful to everyone at Kentucky, everyone from Mitch (Barnhart) down on through John Cropp, Joker Phillips, Marc Hill.  They were great to me and continue to be great to me any time I need to pick their brains or have questions," he added. "I am very thankful for that."

Cook spent his first few years after college in the private sector but his passion for football was too strong. Rather than coaching, Cook sees himself on the track to one day becoming an athletics director.   He was working as UK's assistant director of football ops when Kent State's coach called Joker Phillips for permission to interview Cook, who says Phillips was supportive and encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.

"It was a tough decision because Kentucky holds a soft spot in my heart and it is tough a place you love so much but I think it was time for me to leave and see what it was like somewhere else," Cook explained. "Hopefully, one day I can come back to Kentucky."

And Cook is grateful for his two-year stint at UK and what he learned.

"What stuck out to me most is Coach Phillips and Coach Brooks and the programs they put in place to put football where it is now and recruiting-wise and moving forward with the amount of talent they are bringing in now. I think that recruiting is always the big issue and Coach Phillips and his staff do a great job recruiting," Cook observed. "What I took from (my time there) is how hard and how much they went out and recruited across the state and across the country to bring players there. On top of that, once the players get there, how much they care for the kids and the student athletes there. It's incredible how Joker does that."

Kent State opened its season last week with a 41-21 win over Towson State, but as a Mid-American Conference program playing an SEC team on the road, Cook says the Golden Flashes know they are playing the underdog role

"Our expectations are high here but we also realize who we are going up to play. Any given Saturday, anything can happen. There is a lot of buzz and excitement around Kent State football right now, we are doing some exciting things and we have some talented players and we look to shake it up and do some good things in our conference - the MAC - and do well in nonconference games," Cook said. "It's exciting to come back to my alma mater and play and I still know all those boys over there, so it will be an exciting time for me and an exciting time for Kent State to come up and try to compete with the SEC for one weekend."

Kent State football made national headlines last week when Andre Parker ran the wrong way after picking up a muffed punt. The play generated some laughs but more than a few cheap shots, too.

"You know what, as a team and a staff, we watch the special teams tape together and we chuckled it off but what a lot of people don't realize is the pace of games, and if you never have played the game before, the pace of games can get you turned around a bit sometimes," noted  Cook. "That is where he caught the most heat because people looked him up on Twitter and Facebook and started to bombard him with good texts, bad texts and on Twitter and Facebook. That was the biggest concern was getting to him and make sure he handles things accordingly and we made sure of that because it was one of those things, it happened and now it is time to move on. Next time when you recover that fumble, you can't advance it so, stay put and don't go the wrong way."

Cook certainly knows about rolling with the punches.  In his stint at UK, he played under three different head coaches and had five different position coaches.

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