Marv Cook had just made history with his Regina football team Friday when he was asked by an adoring fan to pose for a photograph with his family.
Cook, his wife and their three children, which includes starting quarterback and budding star Drew Cook, smiled for the camera as a celebration took place around them at the UNI-Dome.
A fan then shouted out her thanks for everything that Cook has done for the Regina football program, which won a fourth consecutive state title and a state record 56th consecutive game on Friday.
And to think, some Regina fans and players didn’t want Marv Cook to coach their football team when he was hired seven years ago. They figured he was being hired only because of his big-wig status as a former University of Iowa all-America tight end and a former NFL all-Pro.
They also didn’t want Cook to coach the Regals because he graduated from West Branch High School, which is Regina’s biggest rival.
It just wasn’t a good fit, some insisted.
I know this to be a fact because I received several emails and a handwritten letter from a player complaining about the hire. The player wanted somebody who had been on the previous staff to be promoted.
Regina had won its first state title in 2006 under previous coach Chuck Evans, so there was momentum at the time.
But former Regina athletic director Chet Wisniewski still hired Cook and the rest is, well, history.
Cook and his cohorts didn’t just make history Friday; they made it look incredibly easily while dismantling Fort Dodge St. Edmond 35-0 in the Class 1A title game.
“I’m blessed in that I coach with guys, that one, I trust implicitly as personal friends, and two, as mentors of young men,” Cook said after improving his record to 88-5 at Regina. “And they’re great teachers. They’re great football minds. I think a ton of it is that.
“And then it’s our student-athletes. It’s ultimately the student-athletes that have to go out and make the plays and make the adjustments. And it’s so much fun to see how they gravitate to it. And we throw a lot at them.”
Cook is correct to spread the praise because a football dynasty like the one at Regina takes the ultimate group effort. It takes a head coach who is smart enough and humble enough to surround himself with quality assistants.
It’s hard to tell who Regina’s head coach is during a game because Cook allows his assistants to play such prominent roles. Cook often just sort of strolls up and down the sideline during a game as if he doesn’t have a worry in the world.
He can afford to do that because his team is usually administering a beat-down, but also because he trusts his assistant coaches, which include former Iowa receiver Ed Hinkel as his offensive coordinator, former Hawkeye defensive end Jason Dumont as his defensive coordinator and another former Iowa defensive end, Alex Kanellis as his offensive line and strength coach.
Cook has learned from his college coach Hayden Fry that a head coach is only as good as his assistants. Surround yourself with good people and good things will happen, but not without blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice.
It was sort of back-handed compliment when the Regina players were accused this fall by an anonymous source of using steroids. It was a sad case of, if you can’t beat them, then make excuses for it.
I live across the street from a Regina family whose oldest son was a starting offensive lineman on the 2011 squad that finished 14-0. I watched the kid get bigger slowly, but surely, behind a daily diet of hard work and healthy eating. His transformation wasn’t sudden, but more so a daily grind under the watchful eye of Kanellis.
“We’re fortunate that we have great buy-in right now,” Cook said. “And success kind of breeds success. And hopefully, we can continue to have kids motivated.”
It was hard not feeling sorry for 83-year old St. Edmond coach Dick Tighe. It took him 60 years to reach a title game, and he runs up against a machine on a mission.
“It was disappointing, but we weren’t totally surprised,” Tighe said. “We knew how good they were.”
Cook was asked after Friday’s victory if he ever envisioned this level of dominance even in his wildest dreams.
“Uh, no,” he said. “You always want to be the best. I was a crazy guy in college. When I went to Iowa, I wanted to win five national championships.
“So that’s the mindset that I think you have to have. I know (my son) Drew gets sick of me saying it, but you’re either getting better or getting worse.”
Speaking of his son, Drew Cook is getting better. The 6-foot-5 junior quarterback passed for 177 yards and rushed for 49 yards during Friday’s victory. This performance came on the heels of a semi-final game in which Cook finished with almost 400 total yards.
The younger Cook would be the first to say he’s only one piece of a huge puzzle. He is as humble as he is accurate, which says a lot considering Drew Cook completed all 13 of his passes Friday.
“I have to give credit to the receivers for running the right routes and the offensive line for protecting,” said Cook, who was in eighth grade when the winning streak started. “All I have to do is put the ball in their hands.”
That’s a typical Drew Cook answer. It’s we, not me.
This Regina team has so many dynamic personalities and so many dynamic players, but none are more inspirational than senior linebacker Casey Beaver. He is listed at 5-foot-6, which is being kind.
But he was a giant on the field. Whether making a tackle or a bone-crushing block or realigning the defense, Casey Beaver did whatever it took to win. So did fellow senior defensive end and part-time fullback Elliot Halsch, whose sculpted frame is a testimony to the work ethic at Regina.
The only sad thing about Friday’s victory is that the historical journey is now over for the Regina seniors.
“That’s going to be the hard part,” said the 230-pound Halsch, who wants to play football in college. “I grew up with these kids. I’ve been playing with them since flag football.”
As for Marv Cook, his naysayers have been silent for a while. Perfection can have that effect.