Sometimes people forget football players are real people. They breathe the same air we breathe. They walk the same streets we walk. And when a professional athlete loses a loved one, someone he considered a brother, he feels the same pain we do.
Fletcher Cox returned to Eagles minicamp Thursday after spending the past few days in his hometown of Yazoo City, Miss. Unfortunately for Cox, the purpose of the trip wasn’t recreational. He was there to mourn the loss of his cousin, Melvin Baker, who was killed last Friday in a brutal car accident.
“Football took my mind off it today, me being back out there with the team, and everybody just smiling and just getting back at it,” Cox said. “I’m the type of guy that likes to smile and have a lot of fun. Even when I was around his mom, the first thing we did was smile at each other.”
Cox said the 21-year-old Baker was ejected from his vehicle and suffered head and chest trauma. Baker leaves behind his mom, two kids, and a younger sister and brother.
“He was the oldest of the family,” Cox said. “He touched a lot of people.”
Cox and Baker were the closest of friends and did everything together. If Cox hadn’t been in Philadelphia at the time, he probably would have been in the car with him.
"If I had been at home, I would have been in the car with him," Cox said. “God has a plan for me. God has a plan for everybody, and I guess it was his time to go.”
Cox was planning to fly back to Mississippi after Thursday’s practice to comfort Baker’s mom.
“She means a lot to me, she’s like a mom, like my momma,” he said.
Cox feeling confident, learning from veterans
Fletcher Cox spent the final few minutes of Thursday’s practice crouched on the sideline while talking to Cullen Jenkins. Cox has been learning a lot from the veterans on the Eagles’ defense. He’s soaking in everything, like a sponge, just trying to get adjusted to the speed of the NFL game.
“I feel a whole lot more confident, got more confidence,” Cox said. “From Day 1 here with the older guys, I stayed here a couple extra days … just getting at the ball, I get at the ball a whole lot faster … using my hands, learning how those guys work, and letting them teach me.”
Cox is looking forward to training camp, even though there could be one major obstacle to him getting to Lehigh — he still doesn’t have a contract. First-round draft picks without deals are usually advised to skip training camp by their agents. Cox, however, doesn't foresee any problems.
“I feel like it’s my job to play football and it’s my agent’s job to deal with my contract,” Cox said. “We should be getting a deal soon."
When pressed, Cox said, "No, it won’t be a problem.”