DENVER (March 17, 2011) - Shane Cook leaves no doubt that he loved playing football despite the heartache that often accompanied the victory.
There was the satisfaction of five years as a University of Colorado Buffalo offensive lineman. And the thrill of being picked up by the Buffalo Bills, followed by the disappointment of being sent home his first day at camp because of a loose ACL.
There was the adventure of playing for two teams in NFL Europe, the excitement of being picked up by the New Orleans Saints and the heartbreak of being dropped because of a pectoral muscle injury in camp.
But at the end of it all, Cook knows that football gave him an advantage that helped him get through medical school.
“It gives you a good work ethic,” says Cook, who has dropped 70 pounds from his 6-foot-6 frame since his playing days. “It especially helped in third year when you learn how hard it is to be a doctor. You don’t get a lot of sleep; you put in a lot of hours.
“You can see that time in two ways: It can be an obstacle, or you can work harder and have a more positive attitude. Football made me a hard worker. I was tired, but I knew how to push through it. I worked hard and learned as much as I could. “
Cook, who majored in accounting at CU Boulder and worked for a while as a high school math teacher, became interested in medicine through his own injuries. At 34, with a wife and three children, he’s older than many other medical students.
He had hesitated to commit to another 12 years of school and training (two years of prerequisites for medical school, four years in medical school, five years for residency and a one year fellowship for orthopaedic surgery), but he knew he wanted to be a doctor. So he contacted Eric McCarty, a former Buff who is now the team’s doctor. Cook had played football with McCarty’s younger brother.
“He was incredibly helpful from the year prior to med school all the way to now,” he says. “At first I asked things like how to get into school, and later how do you get a residency. Then I started asking, ‘Do you like what you do? Would you trade your career for anything else?'”
Despite his familiarity with sports medicine, Cook, who will do his residency at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, took his time deciding to go into orthopedics.
“I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself. In your third year you get to see all of the disciplines. I feel like I went into it with an open mind. “
As an orthopedic surgeon, he can specialize in any number of areas including sports medicine.
“I do tend to be interested in sports medicine,” he says. “But I want my passion to drive my career.”