Loyola alumnus Joe Cook (Class of 1997) will be inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame as a football player on Friday. A two-year varsity middle linebacker and the team’s captain as a senior, he helped the Ramblers to 20 wins and two Prep Bowl titles. Cook was selected as a Class 6A all-state honorable mention as a senior. He also played baseball and wrestled at Loyola. Cook went on to play football at Columbia University, where he started three seasons at inside linebacker. As a senior, he earned all-Ivy League honors. After college, he received a law degree from John Marshall Law School and currently works as an attorney for Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Cook also serves as a captain and Judge Advocate General in the United States Air Force. A native of Chicago and graduate St. Mary of the Woods, he lives in the city’s Wildwood neighborhood with his wife and four daughters.
MAROON & GOLD: What does the Hall of Fame honor mean to you?
JOE COOK: I am grateful to have been even considered for it. Right away, I thought about my teammates and coaches because, to me, any success I had was a result of them. This award is a tribute to them, and I’m excited to celebrate it with them. Same for my parents. They made a lot of sacrifices and supported me the whole time I played sports. Same goes for my siblings. They were always there for me and always encouraging and supportive. I’m happy everybody can share in this honor.
M&G: Why were sports important to you, and what role did they play in your development as a person?
JC: They had a huge impact on my life. It was a very good outlet for me to channel my energy and emotion. I learned a lot about myself and how to function within a team and with a group of people. It taught me how to be accountable. A lot of my academic success was linked to athletics. Without sports, I don’t think I would have gone to an Ivy League school.
M&G: What are some of your favorite memories from your football career at Loyola?
JC: I really enjoyed being with my teammates. I enjoyed going to practices, lifting weights, watching film. I know it sounds corny or cheesy, but I really did like practice. That’s when you form the lifelong bonds. On the field, winning the Prep Bowl at Soldier Field was special. Some might say it was a consolation prize because a state title is the ultimate goal, but it was a great experience. We got to play on the same field as the Bears, plus not many teams can say they won their last game of the season.
M&G: Do you have any advice for current Loyola student-athletes?
JC: It was instilled in me from a young age to respect the game, your teammates and your coaches. You also want to use sports to your advantage. Don’t let sports use you. I was able to use football to get into an Ivy League school. Football is an amazing sport, and I had a tremendous experience playing it. But it was only part of my journey.