Win or Lose, John Blake Is A Good Man
NORMAN - Matt Cottrell vowed he would make the OU-Texas game. The nurses of 4-West knew better.
They had seen too many bodies ravaged by chemo and radiation. Too many IV tubes and oxygen tanks. Too many times the cancer had won.
Matt was a typical Oklahoma 20-year-old. Worked (butcher's assistant) and went to school (Rose State). He lived in Noble, where he was a 1996 all-state soccer goalkeeper, and was an OU football fan.
He had a girlfriend. He had a life. He had a plague in his colon.
The diagnosis came last December, and doctors told the Cottrell family that Matt might not last three years. By July, Matt was in Norman Regional Hospital, where save for three days, he spent the next three months.
From all accounts, Matt was someone you should know.
"Once he was diagnosed, instead of being 'poor me,' he was more concerned about his family and how they would handle it," said his high school soccer coach, Brent McGee. "He was very positive. He knew he was in a battle. Knew it was a struggle. But he kept upbeat."
And like many good nurses, the souls on 4-West grew attached. "He was really special to us," said RN Catina Anderson.
Matt had OU-Texas tickets, and even three days before the game, he was talking of going. "His goal was to make that game," said his father, Jack Cottrell. Matt talked to doctors about taking an ambulance to Dallas, about watching the game from a wheelchair.
But the doctors knew what his father knew: "There was no way he was going to make that."
So the nurses on 4-West got an idea. If Matt couldn't go to OU-Texas, OU-Texas could come to him. They hung red streamers all over the wing. They decorated the hall with Sooner schooners. They wore red shirts dissing Texas. They wore pins that when pressed played Boomer Sooner.
And they called the OU football office. Was there any way coach John Blake could come by the hospital? No, they were told. Too many things to do with the Texas trip 24 hours away. Not enough time.
Except the phone rang 30 minutes later, and Blake said he would be there. And there he was, with some players in tow. De'Mond Parker and Kelly Gregg included.
"To give encouragement to a young man he had never seen and never heard of, to me, that says a lot for the man," said Jack Cottrell.
Blake chatted with Matt. He met the family. He presented him an autographed football. He told the 20-year-old cancer victim to concentrate only on getting better. Then he prayed with Matt.
With the Longhorns on their minds but a stranger in their hearts, more Sooners came later in the day. Eric Moore stayed an hour.
"He was elated," Jack Cottrell said of his son. "It brought tears to his eyes. The idea that these people would take time out kind of overwhelmed him."
Jack knows what's been said about Blake this season. He knows the Sooners have struggled. He's a Sooner fan himself and "I believe OU should be dominant in football. But win or lose, John Blake's a good man. His players are good people."
Two days after the hospital visit, Oklahoma lost 34-3 to Texas. Seventeen days after that, Matt Cottrell lost his life.
One loss was greater than the other.
Berry Tramel can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.Archive ID: 742281
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›