I walked into Gainesville Regional Airport on Thursday morning. I woke up at 4 a.m. and hadn’t had a sufficient amount of coffee to start my day. After walking through security and quickly finding more coffee I turned around only to notice a blue Nike bag with a No. 94 tag hanging from one of the zippers.
Was I still sleeping? Was it possible that I had slept through all my alarms that morning, missed my flight and was, in fact, dreaming all this?
I wasn’t. Bryan Cox Jr. was sitting there at the airport, slouched down in a chair with orange Beats by Dr. Dre headphones over his ears, eyes transfixed on his iPhone.
I didn’t know why one of Florida’s defensive ends was sitting in a terminal waiting to board a plane that would take him to Atlanta just 48 hours before the team plane would take the Gators to Knoxville.
While I was at the airport to fly to Knoxville to cover the Gators, Cox was there for a far more serious reason.
“Bryan Cox, he went through a tough time, he lost a very close family member,” Will Muschamp informed the media. “The last couple of days, it’s been a very hard time for him. Matter of fact, he didn’t get back to the hotel `til late, late last night from the wake situation.”
Cox flew to Atlanta to meet his family he stayed there to attend the funeral, say good bye to his grandfather, Otis Williams and to be there for his family. The timeline was tough and you certainly could have understood if he decided to sit this week out but that isn’t what Cox decided to do. It isn’t what his grandfather would have wanted him to do.
“Never. It never crossed my mind at all,” Cox said when asked if he thought about taking a week off. “I love this game and I felt like [my grandfather] would want me to play this game. There was none of that at all.”
Playing with a heavy heart, Cox had a fantastic performance. The redshirt sophomore finished the game with five tackles (all solo) and a team-high and career-high, three sacks. After each sack, Cox looked up toward the sky, index finger pointing upward. He felt his grandfather’s presence with him, tweeting after the game: “This game goes to my grandfather who passed away earlier this week. I know he was looking down on me and with me every play.”
Despite not arriving in Knoxville until after 10:30 p.m. on Friday night, getting little sleep and dealing with the emotional duress of losing a close family member, Cox had a career day. He doesn’t want to call it a breakout performance, “just because I feel like there’s more to come,” he told reporters.
This game was for Otis and Cox honored his grandfather in the best way possible.