The state of Arizona is known for its scorching temperatures, and deserts, but there's something that has exceeded the hot climates and unbearable heat. Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus is quietly putting together one of the most impressive careers from an FCS signal-caller that we have seen in quite some time.
Cookus' story starts far before his career with the Lumberjacks though. Steve Cookus, his father, was the captain of the Los Angeles County Fire Department and he introduced his son to sports when he was five years old. Alongside his mother, Robin Cookus, the two introduced him to baseball. Turning out to love the game, the family had routine simulations in the backyard with their son crushing the ball off of a tee.
Following dabbling in baseball throughout the early stages of his childhood, Cookus was introduced to football in middle school. Playing mostly wide receiver, the process of how things worked and the minor details within the game really caught his eye -- so much that he wanted to take it up another notch and continue to play the game in high school.
Attending Thousand Oak High School (California), he continued to play wide receiver through his junior year. After not experiencing much success at the position, but still having college aspirations, he wanted to give another spot a try. Making the move to quarterback was a risky proposition to bring to his coaches, but he persuaded them into doing so, and it ended up paying off.
During his last hoorah, Cookus passed for 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Despite his one year of standout production, few colleges came knocking on his door. A discouraging turnout for what he believed was a career altering position switch, he didn't let the circumstances distract him from his end goal of becoming a college student-athlete.
Because of the lack of interest, the slender 6-foot-1, 160 pound thrower enrolled in Ventura Junior College. Betting on himself, he took a leap of faith with the school, but he would only be there for just under three months. Never playing a single down for the program, Northern Arizona came calling as they felt as though Cookus was a diamond that had significantly gotten lost in the rough.
The newly signed quarterback proved to be exponentially more than the team could have hoped for. As a true freshman, he entered his first career start on the road in a hostile environment against Stephen F. Austin. Cookus began 4-for-4 with 120 yards and two touchdowns. The skinny built and no-name thrower announced his name to the country with authority following an impressive 34-28 win.
That was only a small piece of the fruitful pie, as Cookus went on to cook every defense that stood in his way. Voted as the FCS STATS National Freshman of the Year, he finished his first season under-center with 3,117 passing yards and a staggering 37 touchdowns to five interceptions. Using his path to this point as motivation, Cookus went on a tear throughout his true freshman season.
With sky-high expectations entering his second year, he recorded 1,173 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, and only one interception through his first four games -- even tying his previous school record of throwing seven touchdown passes in one game.
Following that point though, he once again faced some adversity. His season was cut short due to a right shoulder injury. Returning in 2017, he came back with a vengeance. Finishing the season with 3,413 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions, things seemed to be back on track for the programs star player.
Unfortunately, the bad injury luck crept back into his playing career during the 2018 season. Suffering a broken right collarbone only two weeks into the year, he was devastated. Another injury that resulted in a lost season for him, he contemplated the move to the next level, but he felt as if he had plenty left to accomplish during his historic career.
Already with his undergraduate degree in hand and chasing another now in graduate school, Cookus has returned to his old ways so far during the 2019 season. Off to a red hot start, he's currently ranked second in the FCS in passing yards (2,056) and touchdowns (18).
The now four-year starter seems to have found his groove and returned to his pre-injury form. Now a mature 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, all eyes will be on him for the rest of the season, specifically to see if he can maintain his health and further his development.
If so, he will have a chance of entering the Day 3 discussion of the NFL Draft or becoming a high priority undrafted free agent next April.