Mississippi State football legend Johnie Cooks dies

Published 7:51 pm Thursday, July 6, 2023

Johnie Cooks, a Mississippi State football icon and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame member, has died, the university announced. He was 64.

The Leland native played at Mississippi State from 1977-81 and was a three-time All-Southeastern Conference linebacker. He still ranks in the top five on MSU’s career lists for sacks (24) and total tackles (392).

Cooks was part of the 1980 Mississippi State team that notched a 6-3 victory over No. 1 Alabama, one of the most famous games in school history. He was a first-team Associated Press All-American in 1981.

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In 1982, Cooks was selected second overall in the NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts. He played 10 seasons in the NFL and was part of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl championship team in 1990. He played one more season with the Cleveland Browns and retired in 1991.

Cooks earned a spot in MSU’s M-Club Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. He was inducted into a the Bulldogs’ Ring of Honor in Davis Wade Stadium in 2011.

“Johnie Cooks is without question among the very best to ever put on the Maroon and White while also standing as one of the most decorated college football players of his era,” Mississippi State Director of Athletics Zac Selmon said. “He truly did it all in his career, from earning accolade after accolade as a Bulldog, to winning a Super Bowl in the NFL. Johnie will be remembered forever in Starkville as he is cemented as an MSU legend. We extend our deepest condolences to Johnie’s family, as well as all who knew, loved and admired him.”