Getting to know Zeke Koko
If you read the sports pages, you probably know the name. You know that he was an outstanding player for the Alcoa High School football team this year.
You might recall that his junior season was ended before it even got started when he tore his ACL in a scrimmage game the week before the 2011 MOC Football Jamboree.
But you probably don’t know much more about Zeke Koko.
I think it’s time to fix that.
First let me tell you about who he is today. A tireless worker and an undeniable leader for the Alcoa football team, Zeke demonstrates heart and desire and all those things that coaches preach and fans expect.
I can tell you that in the months after surgery last year to repair his damaged ACL, Zeke did everything possible to make sure that his knee was as healthy as possible. Rehab is never easy and sometimes painful, but he never flinched.
Anything and everything that Alcoa Head Athletic Trainer Peggy Bratt and I threw at Zeke, he did with determination rarely seen in any high school athlete. We demanded a lot of him and he did it all and then asked for more.
So finally his senior season arrives, and Zeke is finally healthy. Then in Week 4, in a game against Greeneville High, Zeke tore a ligament in his right thumb. That forced him to play in a cast until the Monday before the Tornadoes’ quarterfinal playoff game against CAK.
Do I need to tell you that Zeke hardly missed a beat during all that?
If you have the good fortune to meet Zeke today, you will discover a young man that is mature beyond his years with a smile as big as the Montana sky that lights up a room when he walks in.
He is a young man that will look you in the eye and give you the firm handshake that too many of his generation seem to lack. I’ve actually never met his parents, but this young man has got to be a testimony to their character and parenting skills.
Zeke moved to America from Sudan with his parents at age 2. In the ensuing years, the family grew to include four younger brothers to Zeke who don’t even have to go past the front door to find a solid role model of their own.
Good coaches ask their players “what’s next” with the admonition “don’t let this be the best thing you ever do.” I’m not sure what’s next for Zeke. He wants to play college football and he deserves that opportunity. But what I really look forward to seeing is what he does with his life after football. It’s going to be something special.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (email@example.com)