Barrie Resident Tivon Cook’s Improbable Path to Football Greatness
Former Huronia Stallions and Bear Creek Kodiaks quarterback Tivon Cook will be playing in the Mitchell Bowl this Saturday at 4 pm ET, in Calgary, against the University of Calgary, for a chance to go to the Vanier Cup. Cook is a fifth year starting quarterback for the St. Francis Xavier University X-men in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He led the X-Men to a 7-1 record and their second consecutive AUS championship. Last year the X-Men lost in the national semi-final 36-9 to the eventual Vanier Cup Champion UBC Thunderbirds. They are hoping to be the first AUS school since St. Mary’s in 2007 to advance to a Vanier and the first St. F.X. team to reach the big game since 1996.
Cook was recently named the AUS Outstanding Player of the year and is the league’s nominee for the Hec Crighton Trophy which is awarded to the national player of the year. This season he established three St. F.X. school records for most passing yards in a season (2,537), career passing attempts (871), and career passing yards (6,943). Cook also finished his career third in league history in total passing yards while also firing an incredible 47 touchdown passes. In the official Canadian Interuniversity Sport Mitchell Bowl Preview, author Casey Dulson stated that “Cook will go down as one of the AUS all-time greats.”
These incredible accomplishments almost never happened because Cook was not recruited by a single CIS program despite winning a GBSSA Senior Championship at Bear Creek and leading the Huronia Stallions to back to back OFC Northern Conference titles. There was a single longshot pathway for Cook which was granted by Josh Lambert; a current member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders coaching staff, former X-Men coach, and long-time Stallions coach and consultant. Lambert worked to get Cook into school and a walk on tryout with the team. For a young man to commit to university in such a far off location with no guarantee of a roster spot attests to Cook’s indomitable will and belief in his ability.
My last year coaching Stallions in 2010 was Cook’s first year of Junior Varsity. That season I arrived in Etobicoke to coach the Varsity team and was promptly informed that I missed the greatest game and comeback in Stallions history. The Junior Varsity Stallions were a young team that year with a 1-5 record and were facing a powerful 5-1 Etobicoke squad. Down 36-9 at halftime, then Stallions JV Offensive Coordinator Kyle Graves decided to scrap the game plan, and turn Cook loose with an empty backfield and six receivers. Graves, now a Montreal Alouette receiver and former quarterback and all-Canadian punter at Acadia University recalled Cook’s performance with great admiration. He stated, “it takes a special kind of player to achieve what Tivon has during his career at St. F.X. I remember that game in Etobicoke, the greatest comeback I’ve been a part of. Tivon had the leadership qualities and the toughness to rally the guys around him and say “c’mon guys, we got this!” It was great working with him for the years that I did. He has the competitiveness that gives him the edge when times get tough. He hasn’t only the will to win, but the will to never lose.” I was shocked at the improbable comeback and surprised that the young JV quarterback had that type of performance and moxie in him. In a meeting that summer, I recall Graves replying in the affirmative when asked if he thought Cook had what it took to play at the next level.
Over the next few years Cook continued to improve with the Stallions. He overcame a potentially career threatening injury when he suffered internal organ damage but would never even think of giving up the game he loved. Cook began his football playing career with the Stallions when he was in the sixth grade. He developed tremendous chemistry over the years with McMaster All-Canadian star receiver Dan Vandervoort with both the Stallions and in high school. Cook has also been a key addition to the Stallions coaching staff. His outstanding knowledge of the game and tremendously positive report with players and staff has made him a highly effective instructor and mentor. Cook reflected this week on the impact the Stallions had on his development: “The Stallions program and its coaches helped me grow as a player and a person. Coach Martino [DiSabatino] fostered a winning culture but at the same time was also concerned with how the players developed into men. He was always there for me even during one of the hardest moments in my life when my best friend Mark Laing passed away. He knew I was hurting and put me before the team. He made sure I was okay and that has always stuck with me to this day. I love all of the coaches that have helped me up to this point and will forever be grateful for the lessons they have taught me.” The Huronia Stallions family wish to congratulate Tivon Cook for an outstanding university football career and will be rooting for The X-Men to prevail so he can get one more opportunity to play the game that he loves.