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MSU football legend Johnie Cooks dies



Johnie Cooks
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Football Brandon Langlois, Senior Associate Athletics Director
– The Mississippi State family lost one of the university’s legendary Bulldogs and all-time greats Thursday with the passing of Johnie Cooks. He was 64.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Cooks lettered all four years at MSU from 1977-81. The three-time All-SEC linebacker ended his illustrious career fourth in school history in sacks (24.0) and fifth in total tackles (392). He was the Bulldogs’ leading tackler during the 1978 and 1981 seasons, racking up 100-plus stops each year. During his junior year, he recorded a career high 24 tackles in a game against Auburn.

“Johnie Cooks is without question among the very best to ever put on the Maroon and White while also standing as one of the most decorated college football players of his era,” Mississippi State Director of Athletics Zac Selmon said. “He truly did it all in his career, from earning accolade after accolade as a Bulldog, to winning a Super Bowl in the NFL. Johnie will be remembered forever in Starkville as he is cemented as an MSU legend. We extend our deepest condolences to Johnie’s family, as well as all who knew, loved and admired him.”

The Leland, Mississippi, native was placed on five All-America teams following the 1981 season, when MSU beat Kansas 10-0 in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham. In addition, he was one of 12 finalists for the Vince Lombardi National Lineman Trophy and finished third in voting for the Nashville Banner’s prestigious SEC Player of the Year honor.

In 1980, Cooks helped the Bulldogs put together its best season in nearly 20 years. MSU finished the campaign ranked No. 19 nationally with a 9-3 overall record including a 5-1 mark in SEC play. Most notably, Cooks led State to one of its most memorable wins in program history, a 6-3 victory against No. 1 ranked Alabama. Cooks racked up more than 20 tackles in the contest and stopped the Crimson Tide around the goal line with a game-clinching forced fumble, a play that will forever live in Mississippi State lore.

Cooks went on to become the second pick overall by the Baltimore Colts in the 1982 NFL Draft and play in the league for 10 years. He spent six years with the Colts, then three with the New York Giants, where he was on the 1990 Super Bowl championship team. Cooks then played his final NFL season with the Cleveland Browns.

In 1998, Cooks was named to the SEC Football Legends class, an annual award program of the Southeastern Conference designed to honor outstanding former college football players from each of the conference’s member institutions.

Cooks, who wore No. 99, earned a spot in MSU’s M-Club Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. His name is forever bound to Davis Wade Stadium after becoming a part of the Bulldogs’ Ring of Honor in 2011.

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