The first few weeks of the USFL’s second season are in the books and it’s already apparent that last year’s runner-up, the Philadelphia Stars, will likely be in the mix again this summer. A major reason why Philly has been one of the best teams in the league’s new iteration is because of their dynamic quarterback Case Cookus. He led the squad to the league’s championship last year and, had it not been for an ankle injury, he may have won it. Even so far this year Cookus has thrown for well over 700 yards and four touchdowns despite his Stars being off to a 1-2 start. It’s truly new and exciting stuff for Philadelphia fans but those in Flagstaff, Arizona could have predicted this a while ago.
Cookus’ journey to the Stars has been a long one that’s taken him everywhere from four brief stints with NFL teams to the CFL’s Edmonton Elks. It all began, though, at Northern Arizona University eight years ago; a place where Cookus established himself as one of the best signal-callers he FCS has seen in recent memory.
2015 to 2019 was an exciting time to be a Lumberjacks fan because Cookus was lining up under center. From guiding NAU to a rare playoff berth (2017) to winning the Jerry Rice Award, he practically rewrote the school’s record books in every major passing category and that was with missing most of his junior season due to an injury.
His highlight reel was almost endless. In an epic game against Cal Poly in 2017, Cookus completed 35 passes for 406 yards and four touchdowns, guiding the Lumberjacks to a 28-10 win over the Mustangs. During the final game of his college career he torched Idaho to the tune of 450 yards on 51 pass attempts. Heck, he even hauled in a touchdown pass once. No matter how you cut it, Cookus was an all-timer in Flagstaff.
One thing that made him so effective under center... and still does... is his dual threat wheelhouse and ability to keep plays alive with his legs. In college Cookus ran for a total of 236 yards and six scores and so far in the USFL he’s already eclipsed that number with 260 rushing yards and has a rushing TD to his name.
But he’s is more than just a pile of stats. Cookus is a feirce competitor that exudes every ounce of effort he has to help his team win, no matter the cost; just ask the Montana Grizzlies. In a game back in 2017, Northern Arizona’s fiery QB got called for targeting... read that again; a quarterback got penalized for targeting... after he delivered what was deemed to be an excessive block early in the game on an end around play. Cookus was ejected and, although the Lumberjacks went on to lose that contest, no one ever doubted his commitment to winning again after that. (You can watch the clip here).
Stars head coach Bart Andrus will tell you the same thing of his quarterback. “He’s one of those guys who it wasn’t about him; it’s about him being able to help his team,” Andrus said when talking about Cookus after last summer’s USFL championship.
Simply stated, he’s one of those guys that’s just plain fun to watch and he breathes an important breath of life into the budding USFL. Folks tune in when Cookus is back there slinging it around. Does he have some off days? Absolutely but you’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t. When he’s on, though, it’s must see TV.
So when the Stars take on the Gamblers this Saturday, watch #10. Whether you’re a Philly diehard in the USFL or fan down at the FCS level, you can appreciate what Cookus brings to the table. With an arm that can deliver on passes at virtually any length to mobility that leaves defenders downright aggravated, he’s about as electrifying as it gets and he comes by that team name honestly now. The Stars have a real one under center and it all started from the humble beginnings of Northern Arizona.