Spartan Nation EXCLUSIVE: Talking with former Michigan State Captain Demetrious Cox
I got a call on November 25 from a member of the Spartan football program. He asked me, “What did Day-Day (nickname for team captain Demetrious Cox) do? He isn’t going on the trip (to Penn State the next day) and I don’t think he is hurt.” He went on to add, “I don’t think he did anything wrong, but I don’t know.”
According to police records, the 22-year-old Cox was intoxicated when he punched a cab driver early in the morning of November 24, one day before the Spartans flew to Pennsylvania for the last football game of the season.
Instantly I remembered the Duke Lacrosse case in which multiple players were accused of a crime (and subsequently convicted in the court of public opinion) that never happened. I have been with and covered Cox going back to his being a recruit of Michigan State while still in high school. Both in public and private in which I have been with Cox, he never gave any indication of that kind of behavior.
I instantly reached out to Cox and we spoke. That conversation was private and off the record so I will not disclose the contents, but I will tell you that Cox was not speaking to any other media besides Spartan Nation.
While Cox could have and desired to fight the charge, his focus is on the upcoming NFL Draft and on advice of counsel he decided to settle. WITH NO ADMITTANCE of guilt, Cox paid $1,085 in fines and restitution to resolve the case that came from the incident.
Cox received NO jail time under his plea agreement and the charges were reduced from a misdemeanor assault charge to a civil infraction of littering. So how do people resolve this?
While the NFL is doing a better job of policing their league from troubled players, does Cox fit in to that narrative? I think not. Now I am not making excuses for the lack of discipline demonstrated by a captain of a struggling team out late and intoxicated on a Wednesday night/Thursday morning. There is no excuse for that, and I voiced it strongly during the interview for this article, but it still should not define a fine young man who has a track record of caring for and loving the community and doing any charity work he can.
In the only interview with a member of the media about this incident, Cox and I spoke tonight. I asked Cox what he had to say about the incident. While he entered a plea to a charge of littering, he felt bad for simply being in the position for it to happen when he should have been more focused on the game ahead.
The humble and broken Cox said, “The worst part of it all was not being able to go back to my home of Pennsylvania and make a statement on the football field with my brothers. They voted me captain and deserved better. I let my coaches down and my teammates down. I am glad the situation is cleared up so now Spartan Football can move on and back to the success they are used to and I can move on with the NFL. The thing that hurts more is that I can’t go out to millions of amazing fans in Spartan Nation and personally thank them and apologize. That hurts me. They deserved that. No excuses, I let them down.”
As a media member I always admired the work ethic I got to watch from Cox in practice. I praised the integrity he showed facing the media every week. I respected him joining me at numerous public functions as he represented the Green and White. But I appreciated the way he treated the fans and the kids the most. That is worth a lot.
I watched him last summer at the Drew Stanton celebrity charity golf outing along with many of his teammates staying at the function they weren’t obligated to be at signing autographs, giving golf tips, and playing with the kids. Cox was playing catch with kids, joking about trading his football attire for golf, and being a hero to the throng of youngsters thrilled to interact with their hero.
I asked Cox what he had to say to those kids. “It is such a blessing to play in Spartan Stadium or on the road with the most amazing fans that travel with us. But the kids, the kids are what makes it great. They stand outside the tunnel after games, win or loss, and want autographs and hugs. They talk to you about their lives and their games. As soon as this happened I knew that I had let them down. This will never happen again and I say to them learn from my mistake and don’t repeat it.”
When MSU football called for volunteers to do public events, charity outings, or representing in the community, Cox was always one of the first to volunteer. It is part of the way he was raised. He had a mandate from his father Dorsey and mother Rochelle to give back. A simple mandate from mom and dad that insists you help those that you can help.
Cox talked about being raised in a family that taught him to give back. “That was one of the biggest heartbreaks of the entire situation. Letting my mom and dad down after they have done so much for me and helping them succeed. Having great focus and making them proud is so important to me. To let down family and fans hurts and it was awful as well.”
Cox is a very good safety with NFL potential. I am not one to give pampered star athletes a pass for misbehavior. That is why writing this is easy for me. Cox hasn’t been pampered and he hasn’t been entitled. It was dumb to be out and be intoxicated days before a game. But I also know that not just as a media member, but as a dad, I have seen Cox pour into the lives of my son and many of yours at charity events, and even take the podium at a booster club lunch when the team was struggling to thank the fans for their support. Remember he did that only days after the Spartans were booed in their own stadium, each time giving back every time he could.
Cox isn’t perfect, but neither are you and me. More importantly, I will not allow a littering conviction outshine all of the good he has done over his five years in East Lansing. Cox isn’t perfect, but littering and learning is a lesson that will help him on Sundays.
It is time to move on.
Put it in perspective like this. Golden State Warrior star Draymond Green has a similar assault case that was resolved in a nearly identical way last year. He moved on in a magnificent way and so will Cox.
As far as what he is up to now, Cox said, “Right now I am in Pittsburgh working out every day and February 19th I will be headed to Miami to continue to work hard. When I get that chance to make a statement and an NFL team I will be ready. I learned so much from Coach Mark Dantonio on the football field. I can never repay Coach Harlon Barnett for teaching me my craft and Coach Ken Mannie for helping me learn to develop my body. But this incident taught me the hard way about being a man. I wish it never happened, but I will be a better man for it and I look forward to making Spartan Nation and the NFL proud.”
I know this, next fall my son will have the jersey of Cox showing the colors of whatever NFL team he plays for. I won’t feel bad for it. I can think of a lot worse people that I don’t support, but a Spartan young man who has countless hours, months, days and years of doing things right, who happens to carry a conviction of littering is someone I can support as a dad.
I am not making excuses for Cox, but I am offering perspective. The incident is unfortunate, but it will not define Cox. I think it will refine him. I am rooting for him and I think you should be as well. Making a mistake is bad, but owning it and feeling shame is valuable. He learned a lot at MSU, including what Coach Dantonio preaches by “Overcoming adversity.”