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Cook puts himself in prime draft position

For many post-college job seekers, an interview with an employer might involve a suit, a tie and a resume.

For North Gwinnett grad Jared Cook he only needed a workout shirt, shorts and a pair of cleats to wow NFL personnel last month.

Cook established himself as one of the top tight ends for today's NFL Draft after an impressive performance at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

The South Carolina tight end could be one of the next first round draft picks out of Gwinnett County and will join a elite group of local football products to be drafted. Cook has been projected as anywhere from a late first-round pick to an early second-round pick.

"It's been very hectic," Cook said of the pre-draft process. "A lot of trips, meeting with different people, it's been crazy. But it's good to be home now."

Cook finished first among tight ends in the 40-yard dash (4.5 seconds), vertical jump (41 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 3 inches) at the NFL combine.

Those impressive numbers made the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Cook jump up the draft board, where he's considered one of the top three tight ends in the draft.

"I was kind of under the radar before that and I just came out with the midset to do my best," Cook said. "I just did my thing."

Cook, who also played basketball at North, earned the Bulldogs' football program 100 pairs of new cleats from Under Armour. The sports clothing company has a deal with the combine where it will give new cleats to the high school alma mater of anyone who runs 4.35 seconds or better in the 40, posts a 41-inch or higher vertical or does the 20-yard shuttle in 3.85 seconds or faster.

The athletic part of the combine was easy, but it was the off the field stuff that was the toughest for Cook.

"All the interviews. I did 18 in one night. They wanted to know about my family life, my background and my lifestyle," Cook said. "They are kind of picking at you, but I'm getting a chance to join a fraternity not a lot of people get a chance with."

Cook, who is leaving South Carolina with a year of eligibility left, caught 73 passes for 1,107 yards and seven touchdowns during his three seasons with the Gamecocks. An All-SEC selection last year and semifinalist for the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end, Cook had 37 passes for 573 yards and three TDs.

If Cook goes in the first round, he would join Jeff Backus (Norcross), Matt Stinchcomb (Parkview) and Davey Pollack (Shiloh) as other Gwinnett grads to go in the first round.

Cook's brother, Jason, who played at Ole Miss, performed 21 reps on the 225-pound bench press test. Georgia's Brannan Southerland, a Greater Atlanta Christian grad, ran a 4.69 seconds 40, had a 38-inch vertical and 10-inch broad jump, making him one of the top fullback prospects.

Both are considered among the top fullbacks in the draft.

SideBar: NFL DRAFT

When: Today (4 p.m., ESPN) and Sunday (10 a.m., NFL Network)

Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York