Senior Bowl: Virginia's Chris Cook, Rashawn Jackson Raise Profiles
Every year, a name emerges from these workouts and practices to turn the heads of the NFL scouts.
Sure, some of these players are fighting between a first or second round selection, but more than a few of the young men who will be suiting up for the Senior Bowl are fighting for their dream of just getting a shot in the NFL.
For Virginia's fullback Rashawn Jackson and cornerback Chris Cook, the opportunity of a lifetime is in front of them.
The Virginia Cavaliers have made a name for themselves, producing quality NFL talent and mediocre teams. After a paltry three-win season, it would be hard to imagine there is much talent on the Virginia sidelines but Cook and Jackson appear ready to prove people wrong.
The truth is—despite the widely publicized drafts of Virginia's offensive linemen—most of the Cavaliers in the NFL had to earn their way into the professional ranks. They worked their way up the depth chart and survived the cuts to realize their dream.
Case in point: Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree has emerged as one of the biggest surprises for the Dallas Cowboys this season.
Ogletree turned many heads when he decided to forego his senior season and test the professional waters. Most thought he would never get his opportunity, and yet Ogletree not only earned a spot on the roster, but he earned the respect of owner Jerry Jones.
Jones said late in the regular season that Ogletree was possibly the fastest player on the entire squad. Currently, Ogletree is battling Roy Williams for a spot opposite Miles Austin on the gridiron.
Who saw that coming in September 2009?
Can Jackson or Cook become the next Cinderella story? If you believe the scouting reports, the answer is a resounding yes.
ESPN 950 in Richmond announced NFL coaching reports on Cook and the quotes were amazing. Cook's physical abilities is making scouts drool, some referring to him as one of the top athletes at the Senior Bowl this season.
The question mark heading into the game will be just how well Cook can get out of his cuts. There is debate as to whether his stiffness in changing his route makes him more a safety prospect or a cornerback which he was at Virginia.
Still, there is little debate that his physical attributes make him an increasingly coveted prospect.
Just ask Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike who Cook picked off earlier this week for a big interception.
Cook's road to NFL glory has not been an easy one. In 2008, the emerging leader of the defense was ruled academically ineligible. His career not only seemed over, he spent that season working at Sears, moving refrigerators.
Talk about a change of scenery for the corner.
Cook grew from that experience and has made the most of his second chance. He not only returned but became a team captain, helping lead one of Virginia's most talented secondaries in many years.
Cook went from the outhouse to the penthouse and a solid performance in the Senior Bowl can assure that his name is called on NFL Draft day.
The same goes for Jackson, who finds himself as Scout Incs. top fullback in the draft.
Jackson's athleticism is once again the defining factor for the experienced big man.
The criticism on Jackson has been his blocking ability, some commenting that his form is not quite right. However, these reports also claim that his sheer strength and size alone will help him keep the quarterback upright.
Jackson worked his way on to the field, moving past running backs on the depth chart and helping move an anemic Virginia offense with an under-achieving offensive line.
The senior almost single-handedly gave the Cavaliers their road victory over Maryland and despite off the field troubles himself, Jackson has emerged better for the experience and ready to realize his dream.
In truth, whatever you want to say about Al Groh, he knew how to cultivate NFL talent in Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers produced some of the best players in the ACC, which is why Groh became a victim of his own success. When the team failed to live up to the sum of its talents, Groh was shown the door after nine tumultuous seasons.
Groh knows the NFL and his experience working alongside Bill Parcells put his players in position to succeed after college, one of the reasons why his recent decision to join the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets over the Miami Dolphins still seems a bit confusing.
Nevertheless, many players thank Groh for his tutelage and perhaps that will remain one positive legacy of his time at Virginia.
Time will tell what Mike London will be able to do with the Cavaliers but for Cook and Jackson, the future is now.
Fortunately for them, the future appears bright.
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