I once heard a famous rockstar tell the crowd, “Two things we can't compete with…animals and children. They win the crowd every time.” He said this in response to the crowd cheering its loudest when some of the band’s own kids came on stage to dance. One may ask, “Why is that?” I think it’s simple. Children are special and they have a unique effect on our senses, and more specifically, our hearts.
My 8 year-old daughter asked me the other day, “Daddy, why do you wear that bracelet?” I wear a green bracelet, and I've worn it for over 6-7 months. The printed words on the bracelet read, “Prayers for Brenten,” surrounded by a cross and a basketball. I explained to my daughter that Brenten Cox is a young boy from Arkansas, not much older than her(he was 10 years-old), that was battling cancer. I was wearing the bracelet to support Brenten and his family; and to just remind myself and those who asked about it to keep them in our prayers.
This past Monday I learned that Brenten went home to be with his Savior in Heaven. It hurt my heart to hear the news. As the father of a 10yr old it's hard news to process. But I also felt grateful in a way. Grateful that Brenten was no longer in pain, and grateful that I know who Brenten is and what kind of kid he was in life.
So how does a guy like me in North Carolina come to know a kid in Arkansas like Brenten and wear my green bracelet? I know Brenten because of Head Coach Blake Anderson and the Arkansas State Football team. Brenten was a huge Red Wolves’ fan and the team began a strong relationship with him over this past year. At first thought you may think it was a one-way deal with a kid getting to meet the football stars he idolized. But if you followed their relationship and observed Coach Anderson, his staff, and the players; Brenten was the one impacting them and showing them what life should be about.
In honor of Brenten, the life he lived, and his love for the Red Wolves, his biggest fan wanted to share his thoughts on what Brenten meant to everybody at ASU. That fan is Coach Anderson and this is a very special edition of “The 5th Quarter with Blake Anderson.”
The 5th Quarter:
1st Quarter: What do you remember about the first time you had a chance to meet Brenten? - “I just see his smile man. A kid that, regardless of what was going on around him, he loved life and he loved the people around him. I remember that was just a great day for everybody involved. He had a blast with the guys and we all had a blast with him. I remember it was a good day for him. He was feeling great and was able to have fun and enjoy himself. It was perfect timing for us to come into his life and honestly, for him to come into ours. But what I remember from that day is that continuous smile on his face the entire time.”
2nd Quarter: What kind of impact do you think Brenten had on the players in your program? – “I think we went into it expecting that we would be the ones impacting him and serving the family and that we would be the ones giving. We found out quickly, and definitely more over the last year that we would be receiving more than giving. That's just the kind of kid Brenten is. He was just a genuine kid who loved everybody around him. He wanted everybody else to be happy and be having a good time. I never once heard him complain about anything or blame the circumstances he was dealing with on anything. He really just focused on and cared about people. He took everyday as it came and put others first. What greater lesson is there to learn than that? I think we take what we have for granted. But to see a young kid who's battling for his life take absolutely nothing for granted and appreciate every single moment he had with people is just inspiring. We went into this hoping to inspire him, and we came out of it being the ones who were inspired and learning valuable life lessons. And you know what? Brenten’s impact on us won’t stop. His spirit is with us and it will push us to be better people in life and to put others first. I've seen guys grow up in front of my eyes, not because of something I did, but because of the relationship they built with Brenten. Guys were more compassionate. More appreciative of life and thankful for what they have. I noticed more guys going out of their way to ask how he was doing. Or they would make efforts on their own to go see him. Those guys weren't doing those type of things before meeting Brenten. He helped them grow up and become better people.”
3rd Quarter: How has this relationship impacted you? – “It reminded me that we live in an imperfect world. I know that I'm secure in my faith and I know that Brenten and his family know the Lord. I'm grateful knowing he's not in pain anymore and he's looking down on us with that smile. Brenten just always reminded me that every moment is precious. For me, when I have days where I'm feeling sorry for myself I would think of him. A kid who never felt sorry for himself at all. He just smiled and persevered and reminded me to practice what I preach and seize the day and be grateful for that day.”
4th Quarter: How does it make you feel about the program you have built with experiencing what you did with Brenten? – The whole experience was just God’s work from the beginning. Like I said earlier, we came into his life at a time when he needed us, and I truly believe he came into our lives when some of us needed him most. I saw a kid like Tres Houston who really had struggled to find his way at times. He hadn't always made good decisions and been accountable to others or a role model. But then he met Brenten and he asked to step up into that role and be a role model to Brenten. Tres asked to be that big brother for Brenten. He wanted to change and he fought hard to become the type of guy that Brenten and his family could be proud of. I became kind of like a proud papa myself watching the positive changes going on with Tres. And honestly, there were other players and coaches that also went through some changes. Changes that came about because Brenten came into our lives. It's not just about winning on the field. It's about winning in life too and Brenten helped remind us of that every time we were with him.”
5th Quarter: What memory stands out to you with Brenten? – One that stands out is a day where we took a group of guys over to see him at school. Brenten loves his school and loves his classmates. We went from classroom to classroom visiting the kids and hanging with Brenten. At one point Trooper has the whole class following him around the room and singing some song at the top of their lungs. Just having a blast. I looked at Brenten and he wasn't having the best day physically. He was sitting down just observing the whole spectacle. And of course, he was wearing that big ole smile watching Trooper and the kids have fun. Even though he couldn't participate he was loving everything going on. Later that day we were hanging out with him by the river and he literally was fighting falling asleep because he didn't want to miss a moment with the guys. Well, he began blinking slower and slower and I just asked him if he was exhausted. He nodded and I told him to let me take him inside and lay him down on the couch. He was out like a light. But that was him. Never wanting to miss a moment in life.”
It sounds like what that rockstar told us was true. Kids win every time. And even though Brenten cheered for his Red Wolves’ brothers, those cheers paled in comparison to the cheers that came his way from the team. Brenten was a special soul whose spirit will live on in everybody that knew him. Wolves up for Brenten Cox.