My name is Russell Cooke, a former NFL player who has suffered many concussions throughout my career. I have recently founded NDUR, a peer to peer community for student athletes to assist, educate and support health and wellness throughout the NCAA. I am honored to tell my story with the hopes to save even one life!
I was bullied throughout elementary school– tall, very thin and with large ears and was referred to as “dumbo” by people in the grades ahead of me. I really never liked football or contact sports; I was afraid of an injury and never liked hitting with my head, even with a helmet. My friends kept me in the sport as it was too sad to be isolated from them, so it began.
I remember in 9th grade, one of the coaches asked what I was afraid of and I replied that it was hitting with my helmet. He grabbed the back of my helmet and slammed me against a tree and replied, “not so bad was it?” and I replied “not at all.” As a tri-captain for my high school, the bullying came to an end. After graduation my close friends and I sat in the weight room and thought to ourselves, “now what?”-- our grades were poor, we didn’t have the talent needed for college ball, so off we went to prep-school as a postgraduate to study, eat and workout… and that we did.
After gaining 30 pounds and getting much better grades, I was recruited by the late Coach Dick MacPherson from UMass, who became my mentor, my friend, and my teacher in life. Unfortunately, I suffered 6 concussions throughout my tenure at UMass and was suffering in so many ways. Most importantly, I was feeling completely alone and in the dark with no one to talk to and share my issues with. As I progressed in the game, I signed a contract with the NY Jets as linebacker and special teams, a dream of a lifetime. At pre-season practice a few weeks in, a massive hit brought me down with my 7th and final concussion and my dreams were over for good.
Never had I been so depressed and alone again. I was pumping gas at a local station when a friend of my father saw me and said, “what are you doing?” He immediately jumped on me; he told me, “Go sell! You need to be around people, liking what you do, and be in the moment!” That I did and worked my way up to President of Boston Coach, a Fidelity Investment Company and had 25 years with great peers and employees supporting our good fortune to become one of the largest livery companies in the US.
I’ve always had a big heart and I guess you can say, my family is first, my friends are second and I am third! I wrote a book, Going to the Edge, from the locker room to the board room. Coach MacPherson wrote my forward just before passing.
After losing my god son to an overdose, I stopped and understood that my last chapter was to help save just one life and so I founded NDUR “the voice of the student athletes.” No more being alone; NDUR provides the first peer to peer support app that engages all student athletes and allows them to work together in private, anonymous groups to educate, support and work through similar problems together. This was something I longed for during my time as an athlete.
In closing, I am so proud of our team for supporting me because NDUR, as I’m living it, is my passion and my purpose.
Remember…Wake up with a purpose in life and always stay in the moment!