Legendary Mississippi State football player Johnie Cooks has passed away at the age of 64.
Cooks, who suited up for the Bulldogs from 1978-81, was an All-SEC linebacker on three different occasions. He was named an All-American his senior year before being drafted No. 2 overall by the Baltimore Colts in the 1981 NFL Draft.
“Johnie Cooks is without question among the very best to ever put on the Maroon and White while also standing as one of the most decorated college football players of his era,” Mississippi State Director of Athletics Zac Selmon said. “He truly did it all in his career, from earning accolade after accolade as a Bulldog to winning a Super Bowl in the NFL.”
Cooks ended his career in Starkville fourth in school history in sacks (24.0) and fifth in total tackles (392). He was the Bulldogs’ leading tackler during the 1978 and 1981 seasons, racking up 100-plus stops each year. During his junior year, he recorded a career-high 24 tackles against Auburn.
Following his 1981 All-American campaign, Cooks was one of 12 finalists for the Vince Lombardi National Lineman Trophy and finished third in voting for the Nashville Banner’s prestigious SEC Player of the Year honor.
“Johnie will be remembered forever in Starkville as he is cemented as an MSU legend,” Selmon added. “We extend our deepest condolences to Johnie’s family, as well as all who knew, loved, and admired him.”
Cooks went on to enjoy a 10-year NFL career, spending six with the Colts, three with the New York Giants, and one with the Cleveland Browns. He was a member of the Giants’ 1991 Super Bowl Championship team.
In 1998, Cooks was named to the SEC Football Legends class, an annual award program of the Southeastern Conference designed to honor outstanding former college football players from each of the conference’s member institutions.
Cooks, who wore No. 99, earned a spot in MSU’s M-Club Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
At this time, no cause of death has been revealed.