MURFREESBORO, Tennessee – Every time you discover it Marley Cook, the Redshirt’s sophomore defending attorney has a smile on his face. In a D-Line room full of “class clowns”, his teammate Yes’Kerrius Wyatt said Cook is the guy the group looks out for to keep the energy up.
“He brings a kind of energy that makes you want to go to work every day,” Wyatt said. “He’s just an energy lifter. He retains positive energy, positive vibes.”
Cook doesn’t just put in the work to boost his team’s energy. He is also one of the best weight room competitors in the entire Blue Raider locker room. A two-time state powerlifting champion as a Mississippi high school athlete, Cook holds top defensive line ratings in the bench press (33 reps of 225 lbs, with a maximum of 490 lbs), squat (635 lbs!), and the clean (385 lbs.).
That brute strength, combined with good speed as a defensive tackle, has made him one of the key cogs in the four-man line of Blue Raider defenses counted on to lead the MTSU defense in 2022.
“Marley is a very disruptive player,” Wyatt said. “He has speed and power that you can’t train, it’s just natural for him. He’s different, he’s a beast.”
The speed put Cook on MTSU’s radar for the first time Dustin Royston (then one of the defensive line coaches) and Austin Silvoy (then the wide receivers coach) first met him at a camp in Memphis, Tennessee. Cook ran the 40-yard dash as his first exercise and made a good first impression.
“I ran my 40 and Coach Royston’s eyes got bugged,” Cook recalled. “He was, ‘Yeah, that big man is moving!'”
From there, it was an easy recruiting process for both sides to bring Cook, a state champion in soccer as a senior at Water Valley High School, to Murfreesboro with both head coaches Rick Stockstill and defensive line coach Tommy West Pay a home visit to Cook.
“Once we got to know his personality, we knew he would fit in well here,” West said. “Great kid, great family, knew he was the guy we wanted in this program. When you meet his mother and father, his brother, they are wonderful people, just good, salt of the earth people. And that’s exactly what he is.”
On the field, Cook worked on the team’s field-goal block unit, a role he hadn’t played up to that point, but something that became a crucial way for him to get on the field early and the to show employees what he had to offer .
“When I first played it was just a test, especially on special teams,” Cook said. “I just took it because I have to help this team.”
From there, Cook evolved into a part of the inside line rotation, where his strength combined with his speed made him an ideal pash rush threat from the inside, in addition to his help stopping the run. Cook made rotations during the 2020 season, but he broke out in 2021, counting 14 tackles, including 3.5 TFLs and 3.0 sacks with five QB hurries, while also having an interception and time on the offense’s “Heavy D” package added Zaylin wood and Jordan Ferguson“Pull out his retired O-Line jersey,” he said at the time.
Off the field, Cook continued the success he had in high school in weightlifting, a discipline he learned from his high school strength coach. An attacking mentality bent on staying consistent in form had him skyrocketing the record boards that strength coach Matt Hickman holds on the side wall of the MTSU weight room.
There’s only one weightlifting activity in his wheelhouse, the deadlift, that Cook doesn’t rank high for. This honor is due Jordan Ferguson, who only beat Cook by a handful of pounds. Something Cook hopes to have defeated Ferguson in the near future. Yes’Kerrius Wyatt is confident Cook can do just that.
“I don’t care what your weight is there; he’ll do it quickly and multiple times,” Wyatt said. “He can make a lot of weight look like nothing.”
back on the grate, Tommy West says Cook will be a name to watch at MTSU, especially given the young lineman’s great potential. Cook earned his first sack of the season against James Madison on Saturday.
“I think he’s finally realizing there’s a lot more out there for him,” West said. “It’s got a really high ceiling and it’s about halfway to where it can be. He just keeps getting better and better and better.”
Cook wants to continue raising the bar for an experienced defensive line room that feeds on each other’s success.
“Like Coach West said, the level is really high,” Cook said. “Let’s go beyond that standard, keep going up.”