The New Orleans Saints traded up to snag Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks in this year’s draft because of his blazing sped, his elusiveness and a toughness that often can’t be taught.
Cooks’ character off the field was an important selling point as well. The Saints, in fact, were so impressed by his interview at the NFL Combine in February that they felt no need to do any further visits or research.
"You interview 75 to 80 at the combine," head coach Sean Payton said. "As you go through the process when you’re reading the board and putting names up, if there is discussion with regards to a player, you might say ‘Let’s use up one of our visits and get this guy in here.’ Brandin was a player where there really wasn’t the type of discussion. It was pretty clear as to how he interviewed, how we felt about him."
What was clear to Payton and the rest of the Saints brass was that Cooks was not only an exceptional talent on the field, but also a grounded young man full of faith and character.
Life hasn’t been easy for Cooks, but his family’s struggles have helped mold him into the person he is today.
Cooks’ father died of a heart attack inside the family’s Stockton, Calif., home when he was just 6 years old. His mother, Andrea, went on to raise the couple’s four boys alone by working two jobs. It wasn’t easy, and money was always tight.
In previous interviews, Cooks has heaped praise on his mother and how she managed to keep the family going.
But Cooks also put his money where his mouth was, as soon as he possibly could.
After Adidas awarded Cooks $100,000 for running the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine wearing their cleats, Cooks knew exactly what he’d do with the money: Start repaying his mother’s dedication and sacrifice through the years by replacing her worn-out car with a new Mercedes SUV.
"She needed one," Cooks said. "She was driving around in a 1999 Saturn, and I wasn’t having that anymore."