John Denver sang and co-wrote a well-known song titled "Take Me Home, Country Roads," a ballad about the grandeur of West Virginia's landscape.
The song became a staple in the state and a popular tradition at West Virginia University football games. Fans are encouraged to sing along as the tune plays at every pre-game show and post-game win.
South Carroll senior linebacker Henry Cook is no stranger to Mountaineer traditions such as this — come fall, he will be a part of them.
Cook, a Times first team all-countian last fall, recently announced via Twitter his commitment to play football for the Mountaineers as a preferred walk-on.
"I'm excited to get deep into football," Cook said. "I'm usually a two-three sport athlete and I never really could focus my attention on football year-round with workouts and practice. I'm excited to see how that changes me as a player and as a person."
Preferred walk-ons don't receive scholarships or sign national letters of intent, but they do receive some perks — a spot on the roster, with a chance to earn some financial aid.
Cook led Carroll with 152 tackles, a single-season record for South Carroll, including nine for a loss. He added five sacks and broke two SC football records to become the Cavaliers' career tackles leader with 361.
Arizona and Maryland caught Cook's eye when he started looking for walk-on options, he said. He also expressed interest in Delaware and Montana State, but WVU felt like home for him. Cook's parents are West Virginia natives, his mother is a WVU graduate, and he grew up attending Mountaineer football games with family and friends.
Receiving the opportunity to play football at the collegiate level was always a goal of his, Cook said, he was just unsure of the caliber he could play to. He gave credit to Cavaliers football coach Steve Luette in preparing him and all of his teammates for chances like this.
"Coach Luette and all the coaches included at South Carroll have all been beneficial." Cook said. "We've had success through the years with a bunch of players — Chris Gavin, Silas [Kelly] Brian Plummer, Steven Baca — it comes down to fundamental toughness by the coaches and we've had luck. Those people have a natural ability and those players before me got South Carroll on the radar for schools that help with recruiting."
Baca and Plummer, Cook's former teammates, play football at Maryland (Baca joined the Terps as a preferred walk-on) and Cook said they both supported him in his decision, even if it meant he would not be joining them in College Park. Luette said Cook leads by example, and it showed among his teammates.
"Henry is a hardworking, honest guy and I think players understand that with all sports he's played whether it is football or baseball or getting ready for sports in between," Luette said. "He lifts hard, he runs hard, does everything 100 percent and it seems like he always has one speed and that's high speed. He always does everything that way and players notice that and respect that."
Cook, a Cavs team captain in the fall, is looking forward to extending his football career and Luette said he anticipates seeing him thrive as a collegiate student athlete.
"It takes a big commitment to play beyond the high school level and we've noticed in the past with a lot of players at different levels that it's hard to stay all four years and play a sport," Luette said. "Once you get to college, there's so much going on with academics and time commitment with sports so it's a tough commitment to make. Players that have made that commitment are great kids, hard workers and Henry is just like them. He will commit to do what he has to do and I'm glad he gets a chance to do it at a Division 1 program."