PASADENA, Calif. Destination Morgantown never materialized for Ron Crook.
Instead, the former lineman from Parkersburg South is living out another dream today when he joins the Stanford University coaching staff on the sidelines for this afternoon's Rose Bowl.
"Out here, the Rose Bowl is kind of the pinnacle of what everyone believes college football is all about," Crook said.
In his second season with the Cardinal, Crook is in charge of the tight ends and tackles on the offensive line. His task will be trying to solve a Wisconsin defense which ranks 14th among Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
Kickoff between sixth-ranked Stanford (11-2) and Wisconsin (8-5) is set for 5:10 p.m. EST in Pasadena, Calif.
"Like most kids in West Virginia, I dreamed of being a Mountaineer," said Crook, who had to change his career path in preparation for his freshman year in college after he wasn't recruited by West Virginia University football coach Don Nehlen. "I never really thought this is where I would end up, and I am so thankful to a lot of people in Parkersburg who influenced my life, along with all the coaches I've had in my life."
Once his playing days were over at West Liberty University, Crook remained with the Hilltopper family for three seasons coaching the offensive line under the leadership of Larry Shank. Following a series of stops which took him to Clarion College, Cincinnati, Glenville State and Illinois, Crook eventually landed a similar position at Harvard in 2003.
When Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh exited the college ranks for the NFL and the San Francisco 49ers in January 2011, the Cardinal entered a new era under one of its former assistants in David Shaw. Two months later, Crook accepted an offer to join Shaw's coaching staff and made the transition from one school of academic excellence to another.
"Guys at Stanford are highly intelligent and highly motivated they know what it means to sacrifice and make a commitment to something," Crook said.
Crook also has been impressed at the culture Shaw has created both on campus and in the community. Shaw's impact goes beyond the consecutive 11-win seasons and this season's Pacific-12 championship.
"I've been so fortunate to be able to get a job where I can work for a guy like coach Shaw - he is an incredible person and a great coach," Crook said. "He is very family-oriented, which means a lot to me because I have three kids."
The Rose Bowl committee has followed suit as far as involving family members of the Stanford coaching staff who arrived for the festivities in Pasadena last Wednesday. While his children (Andrew, Cian and Kenley) enjoyed Disneyland, his wife, Stacy, was treated to shopping on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
For the husbands, it's primarily been all business while dissecting a Wisconsin team which dismantled Nebraska, 70-31, in the Big Ten Conference championship.
"I don't want to say I was shocked to see a championship game score that many points and an opponent dominated like they were, but it is something you don't see often," said Crook, who worked with two consensus All-Americans this season in first-team tight end Zach Ertz and second-team offensive lineman David Yancey.
Even with former Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez stepping in to retain his old duties following Brett Bielema's departure to Arkansas, Crook doesn't sense the Badgers will waver from a system used during their first 13 games.
"Wisconsin is really big defensively, strong and physical," said Crook, who also has a vested interest in today's Orange Bowl between Mississippi State and Northwestern with good friend Allan Johnston of Parkersburg serving as the assistant director of sports performance for the Wildcats. "We're preparing for what Wisconsin did most of the year. If they make changes, we should be able to adapt. We've seen enough different stuff that I think our guys can handle and react very well."