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See the best of the best from the recently completed school yearFletcher Cox
has dominated national sporting news headlines this month. Almost all of it has been positive, which isn't nearly the norm these days among National Football League standouts.
On June 14, the Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman signed the richest contract in league history for a non-quarterback, inking a six-year, $103 million deal that includes $63 million in guaranteed money.
The product of Yazoo City (Miss.), population 11,000, told MaxPreps on Wednesday that the money won't change him and the reaction to his deal has been extremely positive.
"Everyone has been really happy for me," he said by phone. "They keep telling me it couldn't happen to a better person. I just say ‘Thank you.' I feel really, really blessed."
One of Cox's first outings since signing the contract wasn't lavishing his green bills at a car dealership or jewelry store, but rather spreading the knowledge of proper hydration to aspiring football players. Cox, a new member of the Gatorade family, spoke this week at the New Era All Star Camp in Atlanta on the company's "Beat the Heat
In its 12th year, the program, with the backing of the NFL, NBA and Major League Soccer, has tackled the continued pressing issues of heat-related illness that have contributed to serious injuries and even death on athletic fields. The most notable examples of heat stroke have occurred on football fields early in the the summer, including the 2001 death of Minnesota Vikings lineman Korey Stringer.
Since 2006, more than 20 high school players have died from from exertional heat stroke, according to the University of North Carolina's National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.
"As a kid growing up in Mississippi, I know about the heat," Cox said. "I mean, we're talking real hot. I remember back to middle school, even flag football days, you'd hear that drinking water or Gatorade would make you soft. That's crazy.
"Every step of way for me from high school to college and the pros, I've learned the importance of hydration, of adding Gatorade to add electrolytes and carbohydrates. Not just for safety, but performance. It all helps fuel the body."
He was fueled as a sophomore at Yazoo City (Miss.)
by his coach Tony Woolfolk, who told Cox and his teammates: "Keep dreaming. Don't ever settle. Work toward your dreams."
That 2006 Yazoo City team went 11-2 and made a serious playoff run, according to Cox.
"We won district," he said. "That was as much fun as I've ever had playing football."
As a 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end, he combined for 207 tackles and 21 sacks over his junior and senior seasons and was considered a four-star recruit and No. 142 top prospect from the Class of 2009 by 247Sports Composite.
He was also a basketball standout and track and field athlete.
"Play as many sports as you can," Cox said. "It's good for you. It helps physically and mentally."
He picked Mississippi State over LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss. Advice he'd give young top recruits today: "Don't let anyone tell you where to go," Cox said. "Pick the one that you feel in your heart is best for you."
More important, he said: "Don't pay attention what anyone is saying about you and don't pay attention to the stars. None of that matters once you get to college. They throw it all out the door.
"It doesn't matter if you're a two-star kid, three stars, four stars, five stars. They don't want any prima donnas on the college campus. Just control what you can control. Work hard. Do your best."
Those are things taught to him by his late brother Shaddrick, who died Jan. 5 of 2015 of a heart attack. He was only 34.
Cox's mom Malissa is a single mom and raised four boys on her own, but Shaddrick — 10 years older than Fletcher — largely took on the father role.
Cox said he thinks about his brother every day.
"Losing my brother had to be one of the hardest things that I've faced as a young man," Fletcher Cox told Phillymag.com
. "Everybody says it'll get better. There's days where I don't think it'll get better."
Wednesday was not one of those days.
"My brother is always with me," he said. "He's always looking down with a big smile on his face. He helped me get here and every game, every day I play for him."
He plays for the small rural community he was raised in, also. The impact he's making is immense.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News
, Cox received a note from a former teacher, who recently asked her students to list what they wanted to be when they grow up.
Six wrote "Fletcher Cox."
And that was before he signed his big contract.