MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Less than a year ago, Darwin Cook was not the type of player West Virginia coaches would recommend as a role model for a younger player.
Cook would admit as much.
"To the coaches and to everyone around here, my mind wasn't right," said the senior safety from Cleveland. "I wasn't playing and that's how it's going to be. That's how your attitude is going to be: 'Forget everybody.' You're not playing and you're down.
"I felt like everybody owed me something because what I did in the Orange Bowl. I got hurt and I felt like they owed me something."
Whether a bad attitude, a bad leg or a bad stretch of play, Cook was benched for a loss to TCU last season after making 20 consecutive starts.
Asked why after the game, all WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen would say was, "Not playing very well."
Cook was a backup the next two games and started the final three, all of that after a sudden and significant realization.
"They don't owe me nothing," he said. "I had that mentality leading up to the end of the season and just expanded off that in the offseason."
Cook is again what he once was. He is WVU's playmaker in the secondary, the one who flies around to tip and intercept passes, to jar ball carriers and stop the run, to be in the right place at the right time to pry a ball from a running back on the goal line and run 99 yards the other way for an unforgettable Orange Bowl touchdown.
Cook is also what didn't seem feasible last season. He's someone to work with and look up to, which is precisely what redshirt freshman Jarrod Harper wants as he tries to get on the field in 2013.
"We watch film all the time because that's what he wants to do," Cook said. "He grabs me and asks. He's done that ever since he's been here. That's what I was like. Lots of guys don't do that. I give him a lot of credit, because he has speed, he's big, powerful and he can hit. He wants to be a good player."
Their bond goes beyond playing the same position to an unusual explanation for why they are together: Highlight videos.
Harper played his high school football in Frostburg, Md., at the small Mountain Ridge High School. As best as he can remember, the last college player out of that area was former WVU fullback Wes Ours.
"It's not a big place, so there's not a lot of attention on you there and not a lot of college coaches come through there," he said. "You've got to do your own thing to get your name out there."