David Cook called it “divine intervention.”
He wasn’t forced to watch.
When Washington safety Alex Cook — David’s youngest son — crumpled to the turf in Tucson, Arizona, last Friday night, David wasn’t watching. He didn’t see the hit. He didn’t see the 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior lay motionless at the 25-yard line, while an audience of 30,880 fell suddenly silent. He didn’t see both teams form an impromptu circle around his son. He didn’t see UW quarterback Patrick O’Brien bury his head in wide receiver Taj Davis’ shoulder pad, shutting his eyes to pray. He didn’t see the gurney roll gravely across the field, or medical personnel strap Alex’s arms and legs to a back board.
He wasn’t supposed to see it. It’s his only explanation.
Instead, Anthony Cook — Alex’s older brother — scheduled a family dinner at a local pizza place on Friday night, assuming (incorrectly) that the Husky game was scheduled for the following day. David decided to record the game and start it a half-hour late.
What’s the worst that could happen?
He also turned off his phone, in order to avoid unwanted spoilers.
When David finished dinner, returned home and — eventually — turned on his phone, an involuntary avalanche ensued.
Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping.
Three days later, David Cook still hadn’t seen the hit — when Alex’s head collided with another player’s knee. Maybe he never will. Upon learning of the injury, he decided to avoid it altogether. “Because I didn’t even want to see it,” David Cook told The Seattle Times on Monday. “So I think I was watching Archie Bunker or something. I wasn’t even going to turn it on.”
Still, while scrolling through Facebook and frantically awaiting updates, David involuntarily stumbled on photos of Alex being carted off the field.
“Seeing the gurney, it kind of looked like a position of a coffin,” David Cook said. “I know for a fact that I would much rather have something happen to me first than any of my kids, when it comes to something super drastic or death or anything like that. I’ve always felt like that, but seeing that was an eye-opener. And the reality is, I really mean that.
“The way it looked just seemed like … done forever. Just to see that, I don’t wish that on anybody.”
But the updates were increasingly optimistic. First, Amanda Forshay — executive assistant to head coach Jimmy Lake — called to say that Alex was being transported to a local hospital. An hour later, she reported that his CT scans had come back normal. He was being discharged and would travel home with the team.
Alex was OK.
But what’s OK?
“When they said he was OK, I wasn’t sure which version of OK is OK,” David Cook said. “Is it OK like he can talk and walk, or he can feed himself, or is he going to be playing? I didn’t know what level of OK it was, so I just kind of waited until I got (more information).”
David texted Alex something simple:
“Hey, dude. I love you, man. I’m proud of you.”
At 2 a.m., after UW’s plane landed in Seattle, Alex responded:
“I love you too, dad. I’m all right.”
David saw it, but he couldn’t trust it. He didn’t sleep that night. He lay awake, crying and worrying and hoping and dwelling — trying not to see his son on that cart. “It was kind of like a numb feeling,” David Cook said.
The next morning, while at breakfast with his wife, David received a FaceTime call from Alex.
“It was like nothing was wrong with him,” David Cook said. “He was like, ‘I had a little headache. I’m OK now.’ I was like, ‘Really?’
“If he were to tell me, ‘I’m done with this. I’m good,’ I would have been OK with that. We would have been supportive. My thing was, ‘Are you going to hang up this thing, or are you going to come back stronger? I’m supportive either way. If you don’t feel like you want to take another shot — which I know you will, because that’s just part of the game — I’m supportive.’ He was like, ‘Oh, no. I’m coming back stronger. It looked a lot worse than it really was. I’m OK.’ ”
Alex — who has two brothers, a sister, two stepbrothers and one stepsister; who wants to become a chiropractor; who is, and always has been, more than a purple number on a white uniform — is in the program’s concussion protocol and considered week-to-week.
Alex is OK, so David is OK.
Which makes all of this OK.
“The support was ridiculous,” David said, three days after UW’s 21-16 win over Arizona. “It was so cool, how many people called. I got at least 200 calls, and that’s not including Facebook. There was even a Husky fan that I didn’t even know (that reached out). It was a trip.
“In a way, I didn’t mind answering the calls and calling everybody back, because I had good news to give them.”
In hindsight, David says, “It was some kind of divine intervention that I didn’t see (the injury) out the gate. Because the pictures, with all the players surrounding him and all of that, that was hard to look at. That was tough.”
Understandably, it has not been easy — especially considering the circumstances.
Saturday was supposed to be a celebration, after all. When Washington meets Stanford in Palo Alto, California — 120 miles south of Sacramento, Alex’s hometown — at least 40 family members were scheduled to attend. They were expecting to see Alex’s seventh consecutive start in the converted wide receiver’s fifth season in Seattle. David joked that “it was ridiculous. (Alex) was going to have to get extra tickets from dang-near everybody whose family wasn’t going.”
Instead, Alex Cook probably won’t travel on the trip. The football family reunion is likely off.
But his father, for one, isn’t sweating the details.
There will be another game. He knows that now.
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