Aaron Cook looks pretty scary as a 6-foot-5, 300-pound left tackle. Just imagine how much scarier he looks as a 6-5, 300-pound pitcher.
Throughout his childhood, Cook, a Calvert senior, considered baseball his passion, and he was pretty good at it, too. But with a body that makes football recruiters drool, Cook reassessed his career path.
"My love was with baseball," Cook said. "Coaches told me I could make it as a pitcher. But everyone told me my sophomore year that with my size and footwork, I could make something of myself with football.
"My meal ticket is definitely football to get to a good college."
Cook has the one tool -- and plenty of it -- that cannot be taught: size. It has attracted the interest of several schools, including Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Marshall. Two years ago, Cook saw his close friend and former Calvert football teammate, Bubba Brady, miss out on a Division I scholarship simply because he was an inch or two shorter than the prototypical lineman.
It hit Cook then that he has a gift. With the right development, he could become a dominant lineman and earn a spot on a Division I roster. It almost seemed easier to learn a whole new sport more conducive to his frame than learn how to best use his body on the pitcher's mound.
"Mechanically, it's a lot tougher for bigger kids to throw than smaller kids," said Huntingtown baseball coach Guy Smith, who at 6-5 pitched four seasons for the University of Maryland and later coached Cook at Calvert. "There's a lot more things that could go wrong" with tall pitchers.
Cook did not gravitate to football easily. As a sophomore, he did not try out for the team until about a week before the season opener, and his first season made him think twice about sticking with baseball.
"At first, I was iffy about it," Cook said, "but now I'm having fun."
It will be more fun if Cook can earn a scholarship offer from one of the schools talking to him. They all, however, have told him the same thing: They want to see his first three or four games of the season before deciding whether to make an offer.
"He has a lot on the line," Calvert Coach Mark Watson said, "and he understands that."
Despite his large frame, Cook is a baby among the Class of 2006; he doesn't turn 17 until Oct. 25, which gave Virginia Coach Al Groh reason to suggest that Cook possibly spend next year at a prep school, continuing to learn the game and toning his body before moving on to college.
Regardless of what happens, Cook has shown it is never too late to pick up a new sport.
"You know how everyone is specializing in one sport right now?" Smith said. "This might be a case for kids not to be specializing. If [Cook] put all his eggs in one basket [and stayed with baseball], he would have never had this chance to do this."