Editor’s note: Marv Cook grew up in West Branch and became an All-America tight end at Iowa under Hayden Fry in the 1980s. Cook also played seven seasons in the NFL where he made All-Pro. Cook credits Fry for changing the course of his life and for teaching him so much about life in general.
Cook is also the head football coach for Class 1A power Iowa City Regina, and he credits Fry's influence for much of his success.
Cook wrote this exclusively for Allhawkeyes.com as a tribute to his former head coach and mentor, who passed away on Tuesday in his home state of Texas at the age of 90:
By Marv Cook
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Coach Fry was a larger than life figure to me throughout my childhood. To watch the transformation of Iowa football under his leadership and guidance was a paradigm shift in the eyes of Iowa fans across the country.
The years of the big two and little eight came under attack with our program contending for Big 10 titles in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Coach Fry’s leadership skills, ability to hire great assistant coaches and his unique ability to motivate a group of young men to strive to achieve more than we even considered possible served as an inspiration to all of us who were fortunate enough to play for him.
When I was able to actually meet him and be recruited by Iowa, nothing changed with my perception of him. He remained larger than life to me. Each time I was able to visit with him, I learned something new about Iowa football and what would be required for me to be a part of it. He would always motivate me to strive to be my best in everything that I was doing. He would explain the difference between success and failure and always put it in a way that seemed to show me that failure wasn’t an option.
My years at Iowa as a Hawkeye, were instrumental to my growth as a young man. Coach Fry always seemed to give life lessons at each and every practice or team meeting. Each time he spoke to the entire team I truly believed that he was speaking directly to me. It was a rare talent he displayed while communicating with 110 student-athletes from all over the country. He had the ability to inspire and motivate each of us to achieve our very best effort each and every Saturday.
I remember practicing inside Kinnick stadium on a cold fall day preparing for a road game against Michigan State. To prepare for a loud environment, they had crowed noise simulation blasting through the speakers and the echo effect off the concrete and empty stadium was extremely intense.
While I was waiting for him to give me the play to take into the quarterback, I said, “man, that noise is annoying”. He looked at me and said in his southern draw, “Marv, you need to learn to not worry about things that you can’t control”.
I ran the play in, gave the quarterback the call and then focused intently on the next 15 seconds of what was in front of me. The play, formation, snap count, defensive alignment, potential blitzes the defense could bring and then on the snap went about executing the play as I had been coached over the past three years.
Shortly after the play was over and the offense had executed it extremely well, I realized that during those 15 seconds, I hadn’t really noticed the crowd noise. Coach Fry was correct again, I had learned another valuable lesson under a great man.
I was able to visit with my hero again one last time this past July in Dallas, Texas. I selfishly had a few questions that I was hoping to ask him about football, coaching and how to maintain tradition while striving to be innovative with the game. After we exchanged hugs, we began a 40 minute conversation that covered a variety of topics. Home towns, college days, practice schedules, hiring/ firing, families, birthdays and several other topics that arose. The 40 mins flew by and I realized that during our conversation we had covered and addressed the particular items I was hoping to get some insight on. At age 90, Coach Fry was still coaching me and helping me to become better!
I can honestly say that Coach Hayden Fry has been one of the most influential men in my life! He not only made me a better student athlete at Iowa, but has made me a better man, husband, brother and son. The lessons that he has instilled in me over the years I was at Iowa, I still utilize each and every day in my life.
Even better, as a high school coach, I am able to pass on those values, characteristics and lessons learned under him to the young men that I am fortunate to coach each fall season. The enormous talent and personality of Hayden Fry carries on in all of us who have been fortunate enough to have called him “Coach.”
Marv Cook, Iowa football, 1984-88
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