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Emanuel Cook: The one who got away

GAINESVILLE -- OK, this headline is kind of misleading. Plenty of kids from the state of Florida don't get recruited by the Urban Meyer, Randy Shannon and Bobby Bowden and leave the state in search of work.

Emanuel Cook is just one of those kids. So, in fairness, this headline should read something like Emanuel Cook: One of the many who got away. South Carolina's trip to Gainesville will be like a homecoming for 21 players on the Gamecocks roster. Of those 21 Floridians, two are from Broward County: Akeem Auguste, a former cornerback for Hollywood Chaminade Madonna, and Donte'e Nicholls, a former defensive tackle at Pompano Beach Blanche Ely.

So, who is Emanuel Cook? Well, if you're even remotely familiar with high school football in Palm Beach or Broward counties then you know the name. Cook starred at Palm Beach Gardens and is now a 5-10, 214-pound strong safety for the South Carolina Gamecocks. In the words of Florida coach Urban Meyer, Cook is one of the best football players in the Southeastern Conference.

Meyer loves Cook's game now, but Florida never recruited the player when he was in high school. Cook was the all-state running back for Palm Beach Gardens who KO'd Deerfield Beach in the 2005 state championship game at Dolphin Stadium. He ran for 243 yards and four touchdowns against a Bucks defensive line that featured a few future major college defensive linemen. Despite the outstanding numbers, he wasn't offered a scholarship by a single school in the state of Florida.

Instead, Cook signed with Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks and has been an all-SEC-caliber defender ever since. He was voted an all-SEC freshman in 2006 and last season made the all-SEC second-team defense. This season he leads South Carolina in tackles (76, third in the SEC) and is the cornerstone of the Gamecocks' defense, which is ranked No.1 in the SEC in yards allowed.

Cook, now a junior, is just one example of Spurrier's impact on recruiting in the state of Florida and one example of a player who will line up against the Gators on Saturday with something to prove to the home crowd. Expect a few big hits from No.21 on Saturday ... and this time we're not talking about Major Wright.



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