A heavyweight high school talent is enjoying life at a lighter weight.
Austin Cook tipped the scales at nearly 270 pounds last fall, his final season at Central Catholic High School.
A standout two-way lineman, Cook helped guide the Raiders to back-to-back Valley Oak League championships in 2016-17, and the 2016 CIF Open Division Small School state championship.
On Saturday, Cook debut a new, slimmer body in the 44th annual Central California Lions All-Star Football Game at Wayne Schneider Stadium.
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He has shed nearly 60 pounds.
“I was pretty big and I felt like I needed to get healthier and a little more fit; be more in shape,” Cook said. “I felt slow and I felt like I couldn’t get around during the season. I was done feeling like that. I’m planning to play at the next level and I know the next level is going to be more fast-paced.”
His secret isn’t rooted in diet alone, though his his mother, Jodi Cook, is responsible for his meal plan. “She really made me eat healthier,” he said.
His biggest gains in weight loss have come in the gym. “I've been on that grind,” he said, referring to his daily workouts at The Performance Lab in Modesto.
Cook was listed at 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds on the Raiders’ MaxPreps roster in the fall, but said he played heavier than that. He weighed almost 270 pounds during Central Catholic’s season-ending loss at Jesuit of Carmichael.
Today, he weighs 215 pounds, or about as much as Oakdale linebacker and all-star teammate Cullen Bearden, whose combination of speed and size resulted in five sacks, a forced fumble and a safety on Saturday.
Wearing No. 34, a number typically reserved for running backs and linebackers, Cook, an all-VOL and All-District first-team selection, was a late addition to the South roster. He helped fill the void left by Orestimba’s Toby Silva and Turlock’s Dominic Silva, both of whom dropped out on Thursday.
Cook played on the offensive line and kick coverage teams. The South won its third consecutive game in the rivalry, 30-17, erasing a 17-0 deficit at the half with 30 unanswered points.
“It felt great to be back on the field,” Cook said. “I’ve lost some strength, but now that I’ve lost so much (weight), I can start building up the muscle again. Now I can start getting everything back.”
Cook said his physical transformation will help at the next level. He plans to enroll at Langston College in Oklahoma and compete for a spot on the defensive line. Langston is an NAIA program and was recently picked to finish second in the Central States Football League.
His mother hopes he’ll stay closer to home. She’s pushing for Modesto Junior College if only for the peace of mind.
“She wants me to stay,” Cook said. “If I go, she thinks I’ll get fat again. She’s really pushing for MJC.”
Cook still has one high school game left. He will join a collection of Stanislaus District stars, including Lions MVPs Danny Velasquez and Bearden, in Saturday’s 32nd annual North/South Rotary All-Star Football Game at Veterans Stadium in Merced.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.