- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2011

The flood started with Erik Cook’s wrinkled shirt.

Instead of an iron, the Washington Redskins‘ center decided to steam away the problem. So Cook hung the shirt in the bathroom of his room earlier this month at the team’s hotel in National Harbor. He unleashed a stream of hot water from the shower, closed the door and turned on the television.

Thirty minutes later, Nick Sundberg, the Redskins‘ long-snapper who is Cook’s housemate and frequent recipient of his pranks, received a worried call.

“You need to come look at this,” said Cook, the second-year player thrust into the middle of the Redskins‘ reshuffled offensive line after Kory Lichtensteiger’s season-ending knee injury Oct. 16.

Sundberg walked into a flood. Water was everywhere. Four inches deep in bathroom. Spilling into the rest of the room. Squishing noises accompanied each step.

“What did you do?” Sundberg said.

Cook had neglected to unplug the drain.

That Cook was even there, in the middle of the soaked hotel room was remarkable. Ask Ben Shultz, Cook’s football coach at Cibola High School in Albuquerque, N.M., if he ever believed Cook would become an NFL starter.

“No, no,” the coach said.

For clarity, Shultz added a third, “No.”

What popped into Shultz’s mind was the giant ball of athletic training tape he caught the good-natured Cook fiddling with in the school’s locker room, not an unusual occurrence.

“He used to make me pull my hair out,” Shultz said. “I remember getting in his face a couple times going, ‘Erik, why are you wasting all this ability? It’s not that you’re not working hard, but, my gosh, you’ve got to be a leader sometime.’ “

A wistful look crossed Cook’s face when he remembered the ball of tape.

“I was definitely the problem child in high school,” Cook said.

At first, he comes across as soft-spoken. Don’t believe it. Cook is the sort of person who was the first to seek out and welcome practice squad guard Eric Olsen, who occupies the adjacent locker at Redskins Park, to the team in September. Though Cook’s jokes have slowed after he started the past two games, he brings levity to team meetings.

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