"Is that him? Brandin Cooks! That's actually Brandin Cooks!"
Lewis & Clark College is located about a ten minute drive from downtown Portland and is home to around 2,000 undergraduate students. In early May, with spring semester ending, campus becomes a ghost town since the majority of the students return home for the summer. It's private setting, proximity to downtown Portland, top tier facilities, and quiet summer campus often draws professional athletes to train at the college. This summer it created a once in a lifetime opportunity for one of our clients named Shalin.
Shalin is a nine year old boy that LOVES sports. For the last couple of years, he has had an NCAA March Madness bracket finish in the top 96+% on ESPN Bracket Challenge, he loves the New England Patriots, and actively requests to watch game film with the Lewis & Clark football coaches after his training sessions. If he's not watching game film after session, most likely he'll be on the field imagining that he is Tom Brady throwing a game winning touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, immediately followed by his best Gronk spike, his favorite TD celebration. And if "Deflate Gate" was brought up during his sessions, he'd make a case for Tom Brady's innocence and voice his opinions on the suspension. He's a die hard fan through and through.
So when I heard Brandin Cooks, the Patriots recently acquired wide receiver, was in town, I immediately thought of Shalin. Through a member of the L&C family, Cooks heard of Shalin's love for the game of football and the Patriots and scheduled a time to surprise the nine year old. Shalin's initial interaction to with Brandin was priceless:
Brandin: "I like that shirt." (Shalin was wearing a Patriots shirt)
Shalin: "Who are you?"
S: "Brandin Cooks, is that him? Brandin Cooks! That's actually Brandin Cooks! What are you doing here?"
B: "I'm here to see you."
S: "How'd you know that I even exist?"
B: "Because you're famous."
After Shalin had some time to process what was going on, he joined Brandin on the field and for part of his workout.
Professional athletes hold an interesting place in our society. They are paid to play a game that they love and are looked up to by many, children and adults alike. Always in the spot light, it can seem like their every move is under examination. Often the media focuses on their negative actions and their names litter the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.
The media focuses primarily on the negative because it is what sells and grabs our attention. That is why it is even more important to share stories about athletes that use their role to positively influence society. Stories of athletes who are humble and hard working, yet take the time to give back to their communities.
Thank you Brandin for taking the time to give a fan an unforgettable experience, and being a positive light in our community.
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS, CSPS is the founder and head trainer of Specialty Athletic Training and is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. He is a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of America, Central Oregon Disability Support Network, as well as the Lewis & Clark College Board of Alumni.