HINCKLEY, Ohio – Connor Cook has many fond memories playing football for the Michigan State Spartans, including beating Michigan after the Wolverines missed a punt at the end of a game, inflicting Urban Meyer’s first loss to Ohio State and winning the Rose Bowl.
The Walsh Jesuit High School graduate was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and played in the NFL for four years.
Cook, a 28-year-old Hudson resident, now works in commercial real estate, but he brings his pitching skills to an annual Thanksgiving football game in Hinckley.
Cook was driving on Center Road on Monday when he spotted the giant inflatable turkey that is erected every November for the Meadows Turkey Bowl.
“I know the bowl, I always wanted to play but I couldn’t,” Cook said.
He reached out to his friend, Pete Meadows, who helps organize the event with his father, Mike Meadows, and others.
“I said, hey, you can still play. You can still play. You just have to raise $ 2,000. He wrote a big check and started fundraising within 48 hours,” he said. said Pete Meadows.
The Turkey Bowl, now in its 32nd year, has raised $ 2.6 million for charity. Most of the money goes to the Société Saint-Vincent-de-Paul with a strong emphasis in recent years on helping families facing cancer.
“I’m very confident we’re going to pass the $ 3 million (this year), that humble backyard football game,” said Mike Meadows.
In January 2020, Life called the Meadows family when Pete Meadows was diagnosed with oligodendroglioma, a rare form of brain cancer.
A baseball-sized tumor was removed during surgery in Houston. Pete’s most recent scans taken in Boston this month came back clean.
“I would say I am cancer free. My doctors will say there is no evidence of disease,” Pete Meadows said.
This year, the Turkey Bowlers are donating 25% of the money raised to help find a cure for oligodendroglioma.
“What can we do? We can pray. We can hope for a cure, but let’s get involved and that’s what we’re doing this year,” said Pete Meadows.
“You can sit on the sidelines or do something,” added Mike Meadows.
Cook, who has been a friend of Pete for several years, felt called to play in the backyard game which features around 50 guys. He’s grateful for the chance to give back something bigger than a game.
“You don’t want to see anyone diagnosed with cancer, let alone brain cancer. My grandmother had brain cancer when I was in sixth grade and died three months later,” Cook said.
Cook, who was drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round, smiled when asked if he expected to be drafted high in the Meadows Turkey Bowl draft on Wednesday night.
“Well, hopefully I get drafted higher than in the NFL,” he said.
Over the years, other renowned athletes, local leaders and dozens of companies have contributed to the event. The Meadows family call the fundraising efforts “the game within the game” and they are grateful to people like Cook for doing their part.
“He humbled himself for playing in that backyard soccer game, right? He didn’t have to do that and he’s going to come out. I think he understands what it is. this game, ”said Mike Meadows.