Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks dominated the college ranks as a junior in 2014 to the tune of 128 catches for 1730 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 32 times for another 217 yards and 2 more scores. To say he had a great year is a dramatic understatement, unfair to what he did to defenses all year.

He comes into the NFL on the smaller side measuring in at 5’10” tall and 185 pounds.  There are always questions that smaller receivers have to answer, and some of that will happen this coming weekend at the Combine, but he does have the luxury of being able to point to the stat sheet and show teams what he did as a No. 1 receiver for the Beavers.

I jumped at the opportunity to chat with him before the Combine, and I asked some general questions to get a feel for his thoughts on playing college football and the transition to the NFL.

The first question I asked was what was it that led him to enter the NFL draft after his junior season.

“It was a long process to be honest.  One of the things that was holding me back was getting my degree but once I found out that I could still take classes right now and still come back to school and finish my degree with less than a year that definitely pushed me to go out more due to the season that I had and how hot I was it.  It’s a dream, you know what I mean?  It’s always been a dream my whole life so I’m making a reality and I felt like right now was the best chance for me to make that dream come true and have the best outcome.”

On the heels of him talking about how hot he was, I asked about his thoughts on his junior season.

“I was blessed to have a season like that.  I had set some goals before the season and based my goals to be able to put up 1,300 hundred yards at least and thankfully by ¾ of the season I had surpassed those numbers by a fine margin.  I mean, it’s one of those things that I had a great individual season but if I could change it and have a better team season, I will do that any day.”

He continued to talk about the team and his thoughts about losing games while racking up stats.

“That’s just a down side of it.  And if I had a season like this with a winning record then I’ll be extremely happy but I’m a team guy and I will rather have more success towards the team than myself and that’s what that situation was.  It was more of an individual thing but, you know, thank God for that type of opportunity to be able to break records like that, the PAC-12 record, the school record, all the hard work has paid off this season.”

I asked what his favorite moment from playing in college was.

“My favorite moment is probably when we beat Utah at Utah in overtime when I had the game winning catch.  That was definitely a moment to cherish and the moment I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, to be able to celebrate on another opponent’s territory like that with my team was definitely a fond memory.”

He talked very passionately about football and I wondered what football meant to him.

“Football is a job that I love but, you know, it’s a passion.  When I step on and off the field, it’s one of those feelings that I get that nothing else gives me that feeling.  It brings me closer to God.  It’s one of those things when I step on the field, I think of my Dad all the time.  He passed away when I was younger so, for me it’s one of those things that when I step on the field, it’s like he’s there with me so it’s like I’m sharing a memory with him that I never was able to share due to the fact I was pretty young when he passed so the passion for this game is far beyond just being able to play football, it’s the feeling that it gives me and my family.”

We turned our attention to the NFL and I asked him what he wanted NFL teams to take away from the Combine.

“I feel like my speed shows on the field so one of the things I want to showcase at the Combine is that I’m a strong guy, I’m a strong receiver.  Now I might not be the prototypical 6’2” or 6’3” guy, but you know I could put up those type of numbers like the big dudes can so I definitely want to show them that I’m durable and I’m strong.  I have strong hands which I know I do and that’s the type of things I want to show at the Combine.  The speed is going to take care of itself.  I want to show them that I’m extremely explosive.”

When I pressured him to tell me what he thought he would run in the 40-yard dash, he told me that he was “chasing the low 4.3’s right now.”

I asked him to try to look forward and think about his name getting called during the 2014 NFL draft.  We talked a little bit and then I asked him what he thought the team that called his name was getting.

“I can go down the list but they’re going to get one of the best receivers in the draft.  That’s one thing I feel like I know, and it speaks for itself but not just that, they’re going to get a guy who’s high in character that’s a great teammate that puts the team before himself.  They’re going to get great publicity in the media.  I’m going to bring great attention to to the team, the community and to the organization.  They would never get anything negative from me in the media so they won’t have to worry about that.  They don’t have to scratch their head at night worrying over Brandin Cooks, that he might do this tonight.  That’s one thing that I’ve felt like I’ve been for my whole career is a great character guy and a great teammate so that’s what they’re going to get from me.”

We finished up and the last question I asked was whether he had thought about that moment, the moment when his life changes when he finds out where he will go to play NFL football.

“I think about it every night.  I was actually watching the NFL draft on YouTube the other day just, just to understand that this is such a surreal moment, not for me but for my family.  It will change their lives and put them in better position in life to succeed so every time I think about it, I get emotional because since day one when I started touching that football it’s been a grind.  I mean, as you all know this is not an easy sport to play. You have to work hard to be great, but working hard isn’t enough nowadays, so you have to surpass that.  So all that hard work and all those tough moments, you just think about those and understand that on May 8th, you’ve got the possibility to be drafted, and that’s just so surreal.”

Cooks returned punts as a junior but the team was thin at the receiver position, so he did not return kickoffs.  He mentioned that it took a “real love for the game” to be willing to return punts and kickoffs, but he anticipated being able to do that at the NFL level.  It will help Cooks to play on special teams as a punt/kick returner and he knows that playing on special teams is a way to help the team early in his career.

Cooks was a star as a college football player in 2013 and is a very intriguing player as he enters the NFL. He is versatile and can hurt defenses with his play as a receiver outside, or in the slot. He is a very explosive player and should excite the team and fans of the team that selects him in May.