MISSOULA — Ask Dylan Cook why, and the answer is simple:
"People do crazy things for things they love and I just love football and I was willing to do whatever it took to see the field," he said.
That is making the rare switch from quarterback to offensive line, a transition Cook not only made, but has grown into a force on the field in it.
The Butte native and Montana senior played quarterback his entire life, including two years as a starter for the Butte High Bulldogs. He was due for a big senior year, but a broken collarbone on the third drive of the first game of the year ended it before it really began.
Still, Cook's ability at quarterback was present. Standing at 6-foot-6, Cook's size and athletic ability drew the interest of colleges, and he ultimately went to MSU-Northern in Havre for two seasons.
Heading into 2018, Cook opted to leave Northern and search for opportunities elsewhere, though at the time he wasn't sure what he was planning on doing. It was then that Montana recruiting coordinator Justin Green got in touch with him and asked if he'd be interested in going to UM, albeit with a slight twist: block for the quarterback instead.
"The transition's been fun and by fun I mean challenging, which is cool because it's something brand new and it's something that I had to learn from scratch almost," Cook said. "I've never played offensive line, I've been a quarterback my whole life. It's been challenging but it's been a lot of fun. I met a lot of cool people, teammates and coaches who have helped me through and gotten me to where I am today."
So Cook walked on with the Grizzlies and from day one began his new training at offensive line.
"Honestly the first thing that was going through my mind believe it or not was that I was undersized," said Cook, who arrived at UM weighing 255 pounds. "Like I've always been tall but being a quarterback I was never this big so I had to put on weight and put on muscle that I had to lose to be a quarterback. So I put it all back on, just learn how to take smaller steps rather than bigger steps because at quarterback you take big steps sometimes, and O-line it's all small steps and fine steps and that was probably the biggest change I had to make.
"Day one, right as I walked in here, had the bulky face mask, bulky gloves, bulky shoulder pads from the minute I stepped in the facility."
Keeping his body square was another challenging transition after being used to moving around more as a quarterback. Now weighing in at 305 pounds, Cook has assimilated into the position well. In 2019, he earned the starting right tackle job in the fourth game of the season against Monmouth and has started ever since. He also earned a scholarship from the program before the season began.
"His evolution is ongoing and he gets better virtually every week that he's out here and I think he can have a big year," Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. "This is a big week for him, hopefully he goes out and plays well again and then springs himself into the fall and has a big fall."
Hauck has seen a case like Cook's before. When he was at UNLV, Hauck coached Bret Boyko, who was a high school quarterback from Canada who ended up playing offensive tackle in college before playing professionally in the NFL and CFL. Hauck added that in the past Montana has recruited tall, athletic basketball players who came to UM and transitioned to the offensive line, something they liked with Cook's measurables as well.
Cook's work has him as a leader on a veteran offensive line and as a leader off the field too.
In using his extra time in school, Cook is pursuing a master's degree in public administration after graduating last spring cum laude with a degree in sociology. With his master's, which he'll earned next spring, Cook hopes to work in human resource management, specifically in the field of equity, diversity and inclusion for a career.
"Just the fact that there are organizations out there that care about it and are leading the way in the insulation process is promising for me and just something I want to be a part of," said Cook, who also spent his childhood years growing up in Deer Lodge and Anaconda.
He's achieved a lot on and off the field in his time at UM, all thanks to taking a chance on himself.
"It feels great but the job's not finished," Cook said. "We still have a whole season ahead of us after this week and there's bigger goals that we have set for ourselves as a team that still need to be accomplished."