In case you missed Part 1: What caused a quadriplegic football fan to transition from Ohio State to Michigan State (Hint: Connor Cook)
The players were running into the locker room. The fans were heading for cover from the rain. It was halftime of the Michigan State vs Ohio State football game. The score was tied at 7 and Miranda McCoy, covered head to toe in green and white, was a stark contrast to the scarlet and gray all around her. McCoy was watching in her wheelchair from an accessible platform inside Ohio Stadium as the Spartans took on the Buckeyes in an epic Top 10 matchup in an absolutely drenching rain.
McCoy had this day planned out for months. She was going to get to see Connor Cook – the MSU quarterback who helped her move out of a dark time in her life – play in person against her used-to-be-favorite team. (If you haven’t yet read how Cook inspired McCoy to look at her new life as a quadriplegic differently, click here to read it.)
Things weren’t going quite as she had planned, though. The weather was awful and she was freezing cold. Connor Cook wasn’t playing – his shoulder had not yet healed well enough to allow him to throw the football with enough velocity. She really didn’t want to, but it looked like she was going to have to leave before the game was over. But then things changed.
You see, before the game, Chris Cook – Connor’s dad – had found Miranda and her mom, Marcie McCoy, in the accessible section and had spent some time chatting before kickoff.
“It wasn’t long after we got into the game and got seated that Mr. Cook found us,” said McCoy. “We of course instantly talked about Connor. It was heartbreaking because he wasn’t able to play and this is one of the games he came back for. I really can’t imagine how he was feeling. Mr. Cook said he kept reminding him that this was only one game. I mean, this man has the rest of his life, he will do great things. I think we all know that! However, I’m sure he was disappointed.”
Chris Cook had told Miranda and Marcie that his wife, Donna, and daughter, Jackie, wanted to meet them as well. So the McCoys had it set in their mind that they would meet up with them, but after they did, they’d leave so that Miranda could warm up.
Jackie Cook – Connor’s older sister – wouldn’t hear of that, though.
“When I say that the Cook family just might be one of the most amazing families, it’s the understatement of the year,” Miranda said. “They make you feel like you’ve known them forever and were just so incredibly sweet. Mrs. Cook and Jackie said that Connor wanted to meet me and there was no way I’d be leaving. How can you say no to that?”
Jackie made some calls and, soon enough, had found a place for Marcie and Miranda to go finish watching the game – out of the cold and into a suite.
“Though my main man wasn’t playing, I was still getting such great vibes,” said Miranda. “Our D was SO TIGHT! Then Holmes was killing it in his run game. I was amazed. They were hungry for it, and even through all of this with Connor not being able to play, his leadership on the sideline was still beyond staggering. His character speaks volumes, just like the rest of his family.”
The McCoys watched the rest of the game from the suite. When Michael Geiger made the game-winning 41-yard field goal on the last play of the game, it was quiet – except for Marcie and Miranda.
“Honestly, when Geiger got that field goal, I think everyone around my mom and I were probably annoyed because we went crazy!” Miranda said. “What an awesome W.”
After the game was over, Miranda and her mom made their way down to meet up with the Cook family.
“My heart was pounding,” Miranda recalled. “This was not only a dream of mine, but I even got to meet his family and some of the other parents of players. Everyone treated us very kindly!”
What was it like meeting the man who helped you overcome adversity in your own life?
“Meeting Connor was surreal,” she said. “Oddly enough, he was basically what I had imagined and so much more. Yesterday truly was one for the books! Not only has he inspired me, the same goes for Mr. & Mrs. Cook and Jackie. They brought tears to my eyes a few times and I can’t believe how helpful they were. They remind me of my family in more ways than one. They’d go to war for one another and that is what family is all about.”
Miranda has found inspiration in Connor Cook. That much is clear. What wasn’t clear before Saturday but definitely is now is that the Cook family has found inspiration in Miranda.
“Meeting Miranda was very emotional for all of us,” said Chris Cook, Connor’s father. “To try to comprehend that our son could have such an profound impact on a beautiful young lady like Miranda who’s struggles are so great & where she has found motivation and inspiration from him is powerful stuff!”
“We all are inspired by her mental strength and will to get better!” he continued. “To see Connor meet Miranda was the sweetest thing ever! She’s so darn cute and all bundled up for the rain, cold and wind. Connor must have kissed her forehead seven times!”
At age 25, Connor’s sister Jackie is almost the same age as Miranda. She too was strengthened by Miranda’s resolve.
“It was obviously a tough week for our family (because of Connor’s injury),” Jackie Cook said. “But Miranda helped me pull so much strength from hearing her story. She is a true testament to the definition of perseverance and she has left an everlasting impression on my life.”
“I believe timing is everything and God brought her into our life for a reason – when we needed strength,” she continued. “It’s crazy how sports can affect people that you don’t even know and bring people together. She said Connor has changed her life, but I think she has had a bigger impact on ours.”
This is why sports are powerful. A young woman finds her way out of a depressing place by learning from the tenacity of a football player she never met. Then, after meeting him, she becomes the inspiring one to a family she had never met before. Miranda has taken home a lifetime of memories from this weekend – and that’s not quite all she took home, either.
After one of the biggest wins in Michigan State history Saturday night in Columbus, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio gave each of the Spartan players a “program win” hat – a special reminder of a win of such magnitude. After he was done talking to Miranda, Connor walked over to his bag and pulled out his hat. At this point, we all know where Connor’s hat ended up, don’t we? With his family’s newest inspiration… with Ms. Miranda Shay McCoy.