In case you missed it with March Madness in full swing, former Iowa Hawkeye tight end Marv Cook was officially placed on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot earlier this month.
Marvelous is an all-time Hawkeye football great—and an all-time good guy.
Cook is a local boy from West Branch. He starred at quarterback in high school, but like so many other Hawkeye football greats, he converted to another position for the good of the team—something that has really become a Hawkeye trademark. Cook played tight end at Iowa from 1985-88.
I personally wasn’t affiliated with the Hawkeyes in the mid- to late 1980s, but I remember Cook as a youngster growing up in northern New York—not so much because of the great player he was, but because of the way all Hawkeye tight ends used to stand up in the formation under Coach Hayden Fry.
I never understood exactly why Hayden did that, but one thing is for sure: The practice made Iowa tight ends stand out—no pun intended!
Cook was one of the early Hawkeyes who helped establish a great tradition of Iowa tight ends. You could say that the moniker “Tight End U” really has its origins with Cook’s stellar play in the mid- to late 1980s at Iowa.
Cook earned two First Team All-Big Ten honors and was a consensus First Team All-American in 1988. He graduated second in Iowa history with 126 receptions. He is Iowa’s all-time leading receiver among tight ends with 1,825 total yards.
Cook went on to the NFL and enjoyed seven prosperous seasons with New England, Chicago, and St. Louis. He was named to the NFL Pro Bowl following the 1991 and 1992 seasons.
Cook will forever be remembered in Hawkeye lore for his game-winning touchdown catch hauled in from Chuck Hartlieb at The Horseshoe in Columbus on Nov. 14, 1987.
I don’t have to tell anyone about how rare an occurrence an Iowa win in Columbus is. In fact, even with all of the great teams Iowa has fielded during the Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa has managed only one other win at The Shoe since that day in 1987. The other win came in 1991 with Hayden still at the helm.
“The Catch” came on a 4th-and-23 play from the Ohio State 28-yard line with 16 seconds left on the game clock and Iowa trailing 27-22. Cook beat tight man-to-man coverage to haul the ball in near the 9-yard line, but he still had multiple Buckeye defenders to beat between there and the goal line.
Two defenders converged on Cook as he approached the end zone. They collided near the goal line, but Cook was able to power across the plane of the goal line for the score as he fell to the ground.
Legendary Voice of the Hawkeyes Jim Zabel couldn’t contain his pure, unbridled joy, as he shouted: “I love it! I love it! I love it!”
I had the honor of meeting Cook during a taping of Hawkeye Game Day Live a couple of years ago in Coralville. I was on the show to discuss my book The 50 Greatest Plays in Iowa Hawkeyes Football History— and Cook happened to be on the show that day also.
We discussed the above play in detail—which just happens to be Play No. 2 on the list of 50. He was very gracious and kind of matter-of-fact about the whole thing. One interesting tidbit Cook confirmed about that memorable play is that he plowed over current Nebraska head coach Bo Pellini to score the winning touchdown that day in Columbus.
Cook is the head football coach at Iowa City Regina High School. Certainly, the program is in great hands.
Congratulations on an honor well earned, Marv. I’m sure I speak for all Hawkeye fans when I wish you nothing but continued success in your professional endeavors.