Jason Cook's NFL dreams were put to rest Sept. 5, the day the Baltimore Ravens cut the rookie fullback from Ole Miss.
He figured it was his one NFL shot, choosing not to fight for months or years to get a roster spot. He had options to sign with other teams' practice squads, but the devout Christian was content that God had another plan for him.
It took that plan just four days to emerge. The North Gwinnett grad flew back in Oxford, Miss., where he interviewed for a job with the Ole Miss Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Not surprisingly, he was the ideal candidate for the FCA position and the full-time job as team chaplain for the Rebels' football team.
"I'm in such a peace in my life and I'm enjoying what I do so much, I wouldn't want to do anything else," said Cook, who turns 24 later this month.
In truth, he wants to do a lot of things.
His goal has always been to work in education, with the ultimate dream of being a high school principal. He is still seriously considering law school.
While many in their 20s are ready to be done with school, he is excited about getting back and using his SEC Community Service post-graduate scholarship. He already has two degrees -- one in English with a minor in political sciences and one in African-American studies.
"I'm kind of a geek, I'll be honest with you," he said. "I just like learning."
A few people locally told me Cook would be president of the United States one day. He didn't rule out a career in politics when I asked him about it.
I would love to cast my vote for a young man I've known since I covered him in football and basketball at North. Back then he was outgoing, always taking time to say hello after a game even if I didn't need him for an interview. He was super polite, whether it was calling me "Mr. Hammock" or responding to questions with "No, sir" or "Yes, sir."
And he had all the qualities of a great leader. He is fulfilling that calling now with his former Ole Miss teammates, who he mentors regularly about life and Christianity. During the season, he's with the football team every day for every practice and every road trip. It's as if he's still a football player there, though he no longer dons the helmet and pads.
And he probably never will. But that doesn't bother Cook in the least. He's content with his current path and secure in his belief that God will steer him to his next step when the time is right.
"For the longest time I wanted to be a high school principal, but right now I'm just living day to day," Cook said. "If (God's) got me with FCA for the rest of my life, so be it. If it's more geared to being an educator, which is what I'm so interested in, that's fine, too. But my long-term goals are to be a good dad, a good husband and have a family. I see those kinds of things in my own parents and I know that's what I want."
Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays.