CINCINNATI - It's a sad day for sports fans in Cincinnati.
Greg Cook, one of the most talented football players to ever hail from the area, died overnight in Cincinnati at the age of 65.
Many fans weren't alive when Cook starred at the University of Cincinnati before he was drafted by the Bengals in 1969. He was regarded as one of, if not, the best quarterback in college football when he was selected fifth overall by Cincinnati.
Cook's promising career was cut short due to a serious shoulder injury during his rookie season. Even though his career was cut short, Cook's ability and talents have not gone unrecognized as his name is synonymous with football greatness in Cincinnati.
The late Bill Walsh, who once coached with the Bengals before leading the San Francisco 49ers to two Super Bowl wins over Cincinnati, said Cook was one of the greatest quarterbacks he'd ever seen.
The Bengals released the following statement on Cook's death on Friday:
The Bengals organization wishes to express its sadness over the loss of former QB Greg Cook, who died last night in Cincinnati at age 65, after an illness.
Cook was one of the brightest prospects in Bengals history, but he saw significant playing time only as a rookie in 1969. His career was derailed by a shoulder injury during that season, when he had joined the Bengals as the fifth overall pick in the NFL/AFL draft. Cook was from Chillicothe, Ohio, and was a nationally recognized college star at the University of Cincinnati.
Cook was declared by the American Football League as its 1969 passing champion, based on average league ranking over several categories. Particularly gifted on long passes, he posted a league-leading average of 9.41 yards per attempt, a figure which remains a Bengals record. He was named AFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by Associated Press and United Press International.
But in Game 3 of 1969, on Sept. 28 at Kansas City, Cook suffered a shoulder injury while helping lead the second-year Bengals to a win that brought their profile to a new height in Cincinnati. The Bengals triumphed 24-19 over a Chiefs team that would go on to win Super Bowl IV, and Cincinnati moved to a 3-0 record.
Cook missed the next three games but returned to action later in the '69 season. He totaled 11 games, passing 106-for-197 for 1854 yards with 15 TDs and 11 interceptions. But his injury later required several surgeries, beginning with the 1970 offseason, and he never was able to return to full action. He remained a member of the Bengals through 1974, but his only action after '69 was a brief appearance in one game in 1973.
"Greg was the single most talented player we've ever had with the Bengals," said Bengals president Mike Brown. "His career was tragically short due to the injury. Had he been able to stay healthy, I believe he would have been the player of his era in the NFL.
"Greg was a personal friend to me," Brown added. "He was a good person whose company I enjoyed over all his years as a player and after that. I feel a great loss at his passing."
At the time the Bengals drafted Cook, general manager and head coach Paul Brown said, "We believe this young man is the best quarterback prospect in the country."
Cook was born in Dayton, Ohio, but identified his hometown as Chillicothe, Ohio, where he spent most of his growing-up years. He was a multi-sport star at Chillicothe High School. He left the University of Cincinnati football program with 15 outright school records and a share of two others.