The Bowl Experience: OSU’s Cook and Cornelius enjoy national college spotlight with other local athletes

This time of year always brings together friends, family, food and — better yet — football.


And this year the Texas Panhandle is getting in on bowl mania with six former Amarillo area standouts representing their current squads in college postseason games.

Palo Duro graduate Montrel Meander opened things up on Dec. 16 in the Celebration Bowl for Grambling State in the senior’s final college football game.

Hereford’s Ja’Deion High and Canadian’s Tyler Carr represented Texas Tech in Saturday’s Birmingham Bowl.

Former Canadian all-state quarterback Tanner Schafer will be a third-string QB behind this year’s Heisman winner, roommate and close friend Baker Mayfield in the College Football Playoff semifinal game against Georgia in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

Then there’s Bushland graduate Taylor Cornelius and Schafer’s former teammate from Canadian, Chance Cook.

The now Oklahoma State teammates are gearing up to face Virginia Tech in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla., at 4:15 p.m. Thursday.

The two flew out to Orlando from Amarillo on Friday. This is Cook’s second bowl game with OSU after playing in the Alamo Bowl last season.

This will be Cornelius’ fourth straight bowl game. Cornelius was a freshman when the Cowboys went the Cactus Bowl, followed by a trip to the All-State Sugar Bowl as a sophomore and the Alamo Bowl last year.

“The bowl experience is awesome,” Cornelius said. “It’s the time of the year where we all get to enjoy our self. Practices are upbeat and it’s the last game. We all look forward to it.”

Cook agreed.

“I love playing the bowl games,” Cook said. “It’s an awesome experience. We get some neat gifts and some clothes and stuff. Practices are a little more relaxed. Instead of being in Stillwater (Okla.) or home, I’m in Orlando for a week. We’re having fun, we’ll get to go to Disney World. We’re all enjoying it.”

Cornelius — a redshirt junior that was put on full scholarship in August — is in his second full year backing up starter Mason Rudolph. Rudolph is making his final collegiate start against the Hokies on Thursday.

Cornelius has reveled in the role of backup, learning from a great player like Rudolph that is sure to be an NFL Draft pick.

“My role is to see maybe something he doesn’t on the sideline,” Cornelius said. “I try and be a second pair of eyes for him. But he’s so fun to watch. I think he’s a first-round draft pick. He prepares like no one I’ve ever seen and it shows on game day. Watching him, I realize how I need to prep and workout on a daily basis.”

Cornelius saw action in four games this season, making the most of every snap. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound gunslinger was 6-for-10 for 148 yards through the air.

Cornelius was even better on the ground, rushing for 86 yards on seven carries, including a 40-yard touchdown against Baylor during a 59-16 win Oct. 14.

With Rudolph departing after Thursday’s game, Cornelius will get a chance to fight for the starting role in the spring.

“I’m excited for a new season, but I’m thinking about this last game right now,” Cornelius said. “We have one more game against Virginia Tech and that’s where my focus is.”

Cook, a walk-on, had another eye-opening season as the special teams captain for the Cowboys. The charismatic Cook continues to make his name on the special teams with his aggressive style of play.

However, he was able to work his way into the rotation in the secondary during games against Texas and started in a game against Kansas State.

Cook earned so much respect, coach Mike Gundy made him a team captain for the South Alabama game and the Kansas State games this year.

“It was huge to get the trust to be a team captain twice this year,” said Cook, who made eight tackles this year. “When they named me as one of the captains for the South Alabama game I wasn’t expecting it. I really thought it’d be the older guys. After that, I worked hard and was able to get it again against Kansas State. I think that’s pretty neat to be on my resume. Getting to start against Kansas State was pretty awesome. I can’t describe how awesome it was.”

OSU defensive backs coach Dan Hammerschmidt is quick to brag about the 20-year-old Cowboy. Hammerschmidt praises Cook’s discipline in the weight room and his work ethic on the field. That’s why Hammerschmidt knew he could throw Cook into the defense in certain situations as a walk-on.

Hammerschmidt also laughs a little when talking about Cook. He says the coaches and players love Cook, and coach Mike Gundy especially takes a shine to the Canadian product.

“It’s hard for a walk on to get coach Gundy’s attention,” Hammerschmidt said. “There is a couple of walk-ons we have like Chance that get a lot of reps. But Chance is the top guy as far as Gundy is concerned because of how physical and how good he is on special teams. He saves some bodies especially starters because of how hard he works.”