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College Football Player Caden Cox Is Paving the Way for Athletes With Down Syndrome

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A few weeks ago a friend reached out asking if I still had the video from two years ago I took of her son playing high school football, and making a tackle as a senior kicker. Not only did I still have the video, it was a moment cemented in my mind. Because that was the day my family went to see Caden Cox play football at a local high school. Seeing him impacted us so much, I wrote about it.

Caden’s mom wanted this video to send to another mom. She was trying to help encourage parents of a younger child who also wanted to play football. I am so glad I still had it, and so glad Caden’s mom is still helping families behind her. Why? Because Caden has Down syndrome, and he is doing things that are definitely paving the way for generations behind him.

Caden is now going to Hocking College, a community college in Nelsonville, Ohio. He is excelling in the classroom, and continuing his love of football as a kicker on the team where he wears the number 21 to represent Down syndrome’s extra chromosome. He had 100% accuracy in extra point attempts this year.

Elected Homecoming King twice, first in high school and then in college, Caden is obviously a well-rounded young man. His dance skills, infectious personality, and perseverance have turned into over 305,000 Tik Tok followers.

@kickinitwithcaden##Wherescadencox ##moose ##fypシ゚viral ##dontmind♬ I Don’t Mind – Fammouzz.Khariiiii

These followers, combined with Caden’s football accomplishments, earned him a NIL contract as an ambassador for Rocky Brands. This is the first year that college athletes are allowed to earn money endorsing brands. It is a momentous step for true inclusion that a college athlete with Down syndrome is part of this advancement.

And that’s not all. On November 20, 2021, Caden was featured in a piece on ESPN. ESPN came to Hocking College to shoot this interview with him. So now, finally, millions of people will be able to see the Caden Cox we have known for two years now. (Full disclosure: He was my daughter Yassy’s boyfriend, until he moved away a year ago.)

Caden and his family have worked hard to get to this point. Caden has been an athlete his whole life. He has a Second Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. He was a gold medal swimmer with Special Olympics. He was a track athlete in high school.

His family is full of college football players, including his father, brother, uncles, and cousin. Football is in his blood. That football drive, combined with a life dedicated to practice, teamwork, and excellence needs to be acknowledged. His family’s determination to make sure Caden always had the chance to do what he has done is also a factor. Inclusion for people with significant disabilities doesn’t magically happen. It is a combination of research, determination, perseverance, proper support, and excellent educators/community leaders, all under the guidance of God’s hand which opens the windows of opportunity.

The impact that Caden’s story will have on athletes beside and behind him, with and without disabilities, is immeasurable. It extends to their families, schools, and wider communities. It also reaches corporations and employers who are seeing more and more every day of this massive, often-overlooked population: people with disabilities. It is crystal clear that every exceptional accomplishment by a person with a disability improves the world for everyone.

Thank you to Hocking College for truly including Caden in every way. Congratulations to Hocking College for his positive impact on your campus. Too many people with significant disabilities are still locked out of continuing education because of hurdles and blocks in the road. Thank you and congratulations to Rocky Brands for taking the right step signing Caden, and for the rewards you will now reap. I hope that many more companies will follow your lead featuring people with significant disabilities as ambassadors, models, and more. I pray that even more companies will see the benefits of hiring people with significant disabilities for all jobs, including ones never imagined before. And thank you ESPN, for helping raise inclusion, acceptance, and awareness for people with disabilities – and their communities. I hope you watch too. History is being made. The good kind.

Image via YouTube.

Originally published: November 22, 2021
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