Signing day: Atascadero’s Cooks signs with Nevada, Poly women’s soccer nabs local pair

Atascadero senior Elijah Cooks (center) surrounded by his mother Stephanie Cooks and father Adrian Cooks as he signs his National Letter of Intent to play football at Nevada last year.
Atascadero senior Elijah Cooks (center) surrounded by his mother Stephanie Cooks and father Adrian Cooks as he signs his National Letter of Intent to play football at Nevada last year. Travis Gibson

Elijah Cooks remembers sitting at the table at Righetti High School with his sister, Mariah Cooks, in 2012 when she signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Washington State University.

Back then, Cooks was just a tiny seventh-grader with big dreams.

On Wednesday, surrounded by friends and family, the now 6-foot-5 Atsacadero senior took one step closer to that dream when he signed his own letter of intent to play football at Nevada next season.

“It was great,” Cooks said of the ceremony. “I didn’t know this many family members would come out, but a lot did. My great-grandma came, and she doesn’t get out the house much, so it was great.”

Cooks was flanked by his parents as he inked his name to join the Wolf Pack, completing a legacy started by his father, Adrian, who played running back at Atascadero and went on to compete on a scholarship at Fresno State in the late 1980s.

“It means a lot knowing that my dad played here, my uncles played here, all of them went on to play at the next level. It’s great to carry on the family tradition,” Cooks said.

Cooks was named the PAC 5 Offensive Back of the Year after a stellar senior season that saw the tight end/wide receiver grab 56 catches for 966 yards. He scored 15 touchdowns in 10 games and had scholarship offers from Wyoming and San Jose State.

Cooks was recruited by newly installed Nevada head coach Jay Norvell, who was the receivers coach and passing-game coordinator for Arizona State last season. Norvell has a reputation around college football for developing wide receivers and has coached NFL players, including Kenny Stills, Marvin Harrison and Ryan Broyles. Cooks said he is looking forward to learning from Norvell and playing in the Wolf Pack’s pass-heavy system.

“I’m beyond excited to know I get to play a position that I love,” Cooks said. “All I have to do is get faster and stronger and come in ready to play.”

Cal Poly Women’s Soccer Adds Two Locals

The Cal Poly women’s soccer team added a pair of offensive weapons Wednesday in the form of Morro Bay’s Emma Hotaling and San Luis Obispo’s Grace Park.

Park, the reigning County Player of the Year, is a dominant striker who has scored 17 goals this season and has led the Tigers to a 17-0-1 record. Park verbally committed to the Mustangs following her junior season in which the team went to the CIF-Southern California Regional Division 3 championship game.

“A few other schools recruited me, but I always knew that Cal Poly would always be my priority because that was my dream,” Park said.

Hotaling started dreaming about being a Mustang when she was 6 years old. When her parents brought her to home games, she would picture what she would do if she were on the field.

“I would picture, ‘OK, if I was playing center-mid, this is where I would be.’ Or, ‘Oh I would have taken that shot there,’ ” Hotaling said. “I do that all the time.”

Hotaling was part of a Morro Bay team that won just two games last season, but head coach Matt Dodge said the senior came with a positive attitude every day and uplifted her team.

“I’m really excited for what’s to come but even more grateful for what I already have had,” Hotaling said.