Playing with Heart

Playing with Heart
By: Holly Brantley

FREDERICKTOWN, MO --A Fredericktown High School football player isn’t playing for the crowd's applause. More importantly, he has their admiration.
Nick Cook is hearing impaired, but with Cathy Merrill as his interpreter, Nick doesn’t miss a moment of the action on the football field.
“She'd say okay this is what the coach is saying. I'd ask her okay what else and she'd say he's saying things about how to do defense and how to do kick off and things like that,” said Nick.
Cathy has become one of the guys. And, where they go, she goes. Even the locker room!
“She talks to everybody and says ‘hi’ to them. “Sometimes it's a little bit funny if they aren't quite dressed and I say come on get going cause she needs to sign for me,” Nick said.
  “The first thing I told them was I have five sons there's not a whole lot I'm going to see new with guys,” Merrill said.
On the field, Nick relies on his instincts.
“I don’t really focus on everything ahead,” said Nick. “I look at the ball.”
Nick’s twin brother, Nathan, is his teammate. Nathan has Cerebal Palsey. Nick says their parents are so proud to see the boys happy and playing football together.
You can often see their mom signaling the boys from the bleachers.    
 “They are so excited,” said Nick. “Sometimes they just cheer everything that I’m doing. They’ll be waving flags for me. They’re just like ‘Go! Go! Beat em’! Catch that ball!’”
 “I think the biggest thing we’ve all learned from this is we’re all human beings and we can make this a positive experience for us all and we have,” said Principal, and Coach, Kent Gibbs.
Nick says his coaches and teammates have been so helpful.
‘I mean, when the coaches are talking to us and we're in the middle of a game it's so exciting!”