Cook Has a Second Career Warming on Back Burner : There might be no business like football, but 49er defender from Montclair Prep to try show business
In the hotel ballrooms that double as interview areas during Super Bowl week, players sit at large tables and await the invasion of the media army.
Those who don’t draw many reporters fill the time by talking to each other or browsing through sports sections.
Not Toi Cook.
He sat at his table the other day, his head buried in a copy of Daily Variety, the Hollywood trade paper. That’s Cook, always trying to stay one step ahead, off the field as well as on it.
He may be playing in his first Super Bowl on Sunday as a reserve defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers, but Cook is also heavily immersed in the entertainment field, having helped form BLT Productions, a company involved in everything from CD roms to movies. He is also involved with running back Ricky Watters and fullback William Floyd, 49er teammates, in singing rap music for an album.
“You see more and more athletes in the entertainment field,” Cook said. “All athletes want to be entertainers and all entertainers want to be athletes.”
And Cook wants to be a little of both. It was always that way, even in his high school days at Montclair Prep, where one uniform was never enough.
In football, Cook was an All-Southern Section selection as a wide receiver in his sophomore and junior years, and as a defensive back in his senior year. He was also most valuable player of the Alpha League. One season, he led the team in tackles and scoring. Cook also found time to punt, return punts and return kickoffs.
That would be a full workload for most people. Not Cook.
When the spring came, he took off the shoulder pads, picked up a batting helmet and became an All-Southern Section outfielder, batting .450, .476 and .437 in three seasons on the varsity.
“When I was younger, I couldn’t play a sport for more than six months before I’d get bored,” Cook said.
So he continued his two-sport act at Stanford. He intercepted 17 passes, including eight in his senior year. As starting center fielder on the baseball squad, he played on the team that won the 1987 College World Series
Again, two roads beckoned. The Minnesota Twins drafted Cook. So did the New Orleans Saints.
It was finally time to make a career decision. Cook dropped his bat and headed for New Orleans.
“I miss baseball sometimes when I watch it, but I don’t want to be playing year around,” he said. “I look at someone like Deion (Sanders, who plays both baseball and football). When this is over, he gets two weeks off and then he goes to baseball.”
Besides, Cook had other dreams to pursue, show business dreams.
In seven seasons with the Saints, he intercepted 16 passes, the sixth highest total in club history.
What was left in football?
The chance to play in a Super Bowl. So, Cook returned to his old collegiate area for this season and signed with the 49ers, receiving the league minimum $162,000.
“I took it because I felt this team was going to the Super Bowl,” Cook said.
Cook played primarily as a cornerback in nickel coverage (when five defensive backs are used instead of four) for San Francisco and on special teams, coming up with his only interception against the Washington Redskins.
His football aspirations might finally be satisfied Sunday if the heavily favored 49ers indeed beat the San Diego Chargers. And Cook is thrilled at the prospect. But in talking the other day, he seemed even more excited about the career that lies just ahead.
“Athletes are talent,” he explained. “I want to be management now in the entertainment business. Talent comes and goes. Management always stays. I want to produce.
“The first thing a lot of people look at in the paper is the sports section. Not me.
“The first thing I pick up is the Calendar section.”
Cook’s company has one screenplay, “Free James Brown,” to its credit and hopes to add many more.
As he was reminded of his high-school days this week, Cook smiled and said, “I’ve thought about how many shoes I’ve worn since then.”
At the age of 30, he already is walking down yet another path. Cook is one athlete for whom there will apparently be life after football. And with his new career, he doesn’t have to worry about his legs giving out or his reflexes slowing. It’s a career he can enjoy for years to come.
Or at least until he gets bored again.