So much of it felt so familiar.
The touchdown run, the touchdown dance, the adoring fans.
And for a few precious minutes Friday night at Federal Way Memorial Stadium, life was back to normal for Decatur senior Dom Cooks. Back the way it was before the cancerous brain tumor sidelined him.
With the help of his beloved Gator teammates, and gracious Auburn Mountainview defenders, Cooks scored on a special 10-yard play during halftime of the Homecoming game.
Quarterback Isaiah Hatch threw a short pass to Isaiah Digs, who then handed the football back to Cooks. With players from both teams applauding, and the crowd cheering, Cooks took his time getting into the end zone. He wiggled and danced, then finally crossed the goal line and raised the football in celebration.
Fans flooded the field, surrounded him and chanted his nickname, “Cookie! Cookie! Cookie!”
“It was great,” Cooks said as he returned to his wheelchair and exchanged the helmet for a crown.
That’s the kind of night it was for this 18-year-old, who also was voted Homecoming king.
So much changed so quickly for Cooks.
Just two short yeas ago, he was a starting defensive lineman for the Gators and a promising basketball player. Then the numbness on his left side started and doctors ultimately detected the inoperable tumor.
It has taken his athleticism and independence, but not his spirit. Cooks is one of the most beloved and inspirational students at the Federal Way school and his positive attitude is infectious.
When Decatur principal David Brower asked him what he would wish for, Cooks said he would love to put on his pads and play football one more time. Brower put the plan in motion with Leon Hatch and the two got immediate cooperation from Auburn Mountainview principal Terri Herren and coach Jared Gervais.
“That was so awesome,” Decatur coach Leon Hatch said afterward, asking Cooks for dance lessons as well.
It was a special, feel-good moment, and you can read more about it – and more about this special young man – in my full feature story in Sunday’s Seattle Times, complimented by additional amazing photos by Dean Rutz.