As the harsh realization hit me that this was not a dream, the sights and sounds were forever embedded into my brain. From the sound that glass makes as pieces would deflect off more glass, or metal. The earthy smell of dirt from where my truck tore the ground up around the telephone pole. The sirens, walkie talkies, the crowd gathering to see what had happened. Yet, inside the truck, it was calm and eerily quiet. As I began to regain consciousness the obvious moment hit me, “Where is Andrea, I will find Andrea, she will make this better”. I kept looking and looking and remember getting mad and frustrated. I ran my hands over my face and through my hair. I heard more glass fall and noticed the stain of blood on my hands. Instantly my heart sank and I got a sick feeling. I had an extended cab truck, and in one last effort I looked back and there she was………….It is not what you may be thinking. Everything looked normal and peaceful. I never thought to verbally communicate with her. Maybe it was the fear of what may be, or knowing the damage was already done. She had a belly button ring and I could see it. I thought, “I am just going to make sure it moves and I know she is breathing”. I stared for what felt like a lifetime, in reality a minute or so. I kept thinking “Move, move, please…..move”. It never did. My friend, the one I am supposed to do everything in her best interest now laid lifeless. How highly did I think of my best friend? I knowingly drank, got behind the wheel, sped, flipped my truck 3 times, and let her die in a ditch, upside down on a Sunday afternoon because I did not think the rules applied to me. IGNORANT!!
I was rushed to ICU where I spent a number of days. I do not speak about the injuries because I am still here, and someone is not. They took her by helicopter, but I could have told them it was too late. While in ICU I remember asking the disappointed and sad faces that came into the room “How is Andrea”? I was holding on to the smallest glimmer of hope that this was a dream, she was alive, and none of this was happening.
I was released from the hospital in early August 2001. I was sent home but I knew what happened. I knew if it was not alcohol it was going to be something in my system, and I knew Andrea had passed. My main thought was Actions have consequences, both good and bad. The problems I instantly created for so many people was truly crushing.
A few weeks after being home I got a call one afternoon. It was the Massillon PD and they informed me a warrant had been issued for my arrest. Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, DUI, speeding, reckless op, and a few other charges. I was asked to turn myself in. The next morning I went to the station to be booked, arraigned, and put on house arrest where I would stay for the coming months while the prosecutor, my attorney, and her family would determine my fate. There was no taking it to trial. From the minute it happened I accepted responsibility. Whatever the court and family feel necessary is what I will serve.
Any time there is a crime with a victim, or in this case the victim’s family they have a huge say in the sentencing process. They deserve it, and this would be no exception.
Around Thanksgiving 2001 the judge let my attorney know that sentencing would be December 24th 2001. He was not sure how long I would spend in prison, but that would be the day I found out. In addition, the family have the right to speak at sentencing. It is called the victim impact statement, and is the most critical aspect of the sentencing phase. It is their chance to look you in the eyes and tell you how they feel about what you did to the one they love.
The weather was terrible that morning and her family was unable to get to the courthouse. Judge Brown said they would not be denied that opportunity. Went on to tell me he was going to start my sentence that day. Said I could go home and be back on the 27th for sentencing. I would serve 4 years in a State penitentiary, lose my driver’s license for life, and be on probation when I got home. The time in prison never bothered me. I was still trying to process what I had done and the pain I caused. In fact, I remember thinking “cool 3 more days”, it will be the last time I see my parents in that particular environment for 4 years.
2nd day home I was getting out of the shower and looking in the mirror. I was thinking “How did I go from the guy that would not hurt anyone, to this addict that took the life of an amazing woman”, and all in a year and a half. Resonating in the back of my head was what my dad always told me, “If life is not going the way you want it, look in the mirror”. What I saw staring back at me was the most selfish, disgusting person to walk this earth. It was a moment of clarity. I realized that one choice, one decision which I thought was harmless, affected hundreds of people in an instant.
I let my mom and dad down. That is the second worst feeling I have ever experienced. I spent my whole life trying to be a good kid in the classroom, athletics, or just in general. Loved to see that look of pride in their eyes. Now, I only saw the emptiness in their eyes. I destroyed those two people and they did everything the right way. Coaches, teachers, little kids that once looked up to me. In addition, all my friends. On the other side Andrea’s family. Her parents, brother and sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, coaches, teachers, her friends…….Hundreds and hundreds of people woke up July 29th 2001, and by the time they went to bed they were dealt news in one of two ways: “Hey did you hear Cooksey was driving around drunk with that girl from Mount Union. Crashed his truck, she is dead”, or “Did you hear Andrea was riding around with that guy from Mount Union, he was drinking and driving, lost control, she is dead”. That is the last thing in the world any of them thought they were going to hear. To this day, the void in their hearts is from me.
I showed up for sentencing the 27th. Her family was there. Specifically, her father was there. He read a statement, I stood there and looked him in the eyes because that was how I was raised. He just wanted his daughter back for one more day. One more family dinner. As much as I truly wanted her to live and me to be the one that did not make it, it is not how the cards were dealt. I could not tell you every word that came out of his mouth that morning, but I will never forget the look in the man’s eyes. I cannot even find the combination of words to describe it. It did come full circle years later. Every year I come back to Ohio and do two programs where they bring in HS seniors for Prom programming. One is called Your Life Your Choice (I recently took over for a retired police officer that lost his daughter to a drunk driver) He brought me on board years ago, and recently handed me the reigns to take over for him. An honor when you think about the dynamics of that. The other is NoneU21. Both programs have one thing in common; the walk of remembrance. It is a collection of families that lost someone close to them to the hands of a drunk driver. They have large pictures of their loved ones and the family stands on either side. Five families on each side. After programming, they walk silently through a hall of victims. The first year I did the programs I told myself I needed to walk through this. I knew the families did not like me (After 9 years I have now formed extremely special relationships with a few of the families). As I stepped into the sadness I spent a handful of seconds at each family looking at their lost loved one and making eye contact, tears rolling down my face. By the time I got to the last family I realized something; the very look in each of their eyes was the exact same look Andrea’s dad had in his eyes the morning of sentencing. Like I said, no words, but I can tell you this much: YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE THE REASON THAT CAUSES THAT MUCH PAIN AND THAT MUCH HURT ALL ON A PREVENTABLE ACT.
They slapped the cuffs on me and away I went. Now people always want to know what prison is like. Well, it is not what you see on TV and it is not fun. Yes, I was with every conceivable type of criminal. Some had petty crimes, while other crimes were so heinous it would make your stomach turn. I do not spend a lot of time in the politics of prison and whether the system works, or sets people up to fail. I do know the % of people that committed their crimes while under the influence of “something” was astronomical. The worst part about prison had nothing to do with the people, violence, or food. It was once or twice a month when my parents would drive 2 hours to see me for a couple hours. Looking them in the eye every visit stating my sorrow and remorse for all the pain I caused so many people. They would look me in the eyes and say “Aaron, you did a horrible thing and hurt a lot of people. We are your parents and we are going to stand by you. We know you will make us proud again one day”. My own family was not even proud of me. Rightfully so, I did not like myself much as a person either at that time, but it doesn’t make it sting any less.
About 3 years into the sentence my mom started doing what moms do and asking me about finishing college. My reply was “Mom, I have a felony, I cannot be a teacher anymore. In fact I cannot do 90% of the jobs I wanted to with a felony”. She would go on to tell me that I could make my own choices but they would love to see me get a degree. Even if I did not use it. Once I have it they cannot take it from me. She would say “you would be the first one in the family to get a degree. It would make us so proud”. At that point the decision was easy.
I reached out to Walsh University who at one time was begging me to attend their school. Now, I was begging them for a chance to go. I was given an opportunity to attend and was adamant on making it count. I saw it not only as a chance to get the degree, but also set the groundwork for the next person that may be needing a second chance. I knew if I could do well the school may be more apt to allow the next person a shot.
I was released from prison December 24th 2005. Two weeks later I was enrolled for the spring 2006 semester. First semester all A’s, even made the Dean’s List. It was the first time my name was ever mentioned in the same sentence as Dean. Heck, I remember kids trying to scope out my answers. I was now the guy people tried to copy!
A chance to play football at Walsh also came about. Long story short, I went through spring practice and was awarded scholarship money. After having some issues with high blood pressure and kidney problems the Doctors made me hang it up. The Doctors never pin pointed the exact cause, but did state their confidence that although short lived, the excessive amount of bad substances I put through my body, did damage. Then spending 4 years in prison while the problem went unattended did not help. I then needed a 4th knee operation and that finished any hope of continuing sports. At that moment I decided to be the best student I could possibly be. I consumed myself with something positive outside the world of sports.
In August of 2007 I had completed the 62 credit hours finishing the requirements for my degree in Corporate Communications. Now there is not much I can do with my degree (Because of the choices and decisions I made) but when I got it my parents looked me in the eyes and said “we are so proud of you, we love you”. If people understood how hard and long I worked to hear them say that. To this day I consider my degree one of my top accomplishments in life. No matter what you love in life give academics your all. At minimum you will earn that diploma or degree. I realize not everyone wants to do the college route and that is ok. Whatever you choose to do in life, just do it well!
When I was in prison schools in Ohio kept calling and asking if I was speaking to students. After a bunch of calls the prison brought me up front one day and said “Are you good at public speaking” After learning why they wanted to know my first and only answer was “sure am”, knowing in the back of my head my number one fear was public speaking.
The first two programs I ever did were the most awkward experiences as a speaker. My first program was to 450 middle school students sitting on a gymnasium floor. I was cuffed and shackled, nervous, and it was rough. I came with so much intensity and those poor souls just wanted to do some macaroni art. The second was a very interesting school in Painesville, OH. When addressing any audience, the worst setup is in a gymnasium when they pull both bleacher sides down and students are looking across the gym at each other. Meanwhile I am posted up under the basketball hoop having to constantly look left or right and have nothing visible down center. Well about 6 minutes in I froze. First and only time it ever happened. I went from a guy that felt a 3 minute speech in class was a filibuster, to a guy delivering a 45 minute program on my second time out. I just froze. Must have been a minute of trying to figure it out. With each passing second the rumbles, laughs, and jeers grew louder. Got back on track and finished the program. While being escorted off stage by two armed Correction Officers, I realized how challenging it will be to convince young adults, “It will never happen to me”. Over the last 10 years I have dedicated my life and mission to create a program that truly resonates, relates, and impacts every student.
After a year of doing various engagements for the ODRC I was put in the “hole” for 30 days for an alleged gambling operation I was not found guilty of. However, their house, their rules. The decision to stop me from speaking was made, but the spark inside me knew this was something I wanted to do.
The combination of Alcohol and Driving does not discriminate. It does not care who, what, when, where or why. It strikes when it is least expected and leaves a painful trail for hundreds of people. The ripple effect is a powerful reminder that being proactive is the best approach.
Shortly after coming home I was contacted by Coach Tressel at OSU. He had recruited me for football when he was at Youngstown State. Either way, I went and spoke. Before I knew it I was at an array of programs speaking and sharing. I told myself I would do this as long as I could but never wanted to be “that guy”. The one that would come to schools and say “don’t do this, don’t do that, 7 out of 8 kids that drink on Wednesdays fail Algebra tests on Thursdays”……What, you made that up, that is not real…. So I came up with Drop Your Pride, Too Many Have Died. It started as a drawing on cardboard with a pen and pencil and grew into something I am proud of.
The basis for my program is as follows:
I realize not every student drinks, and not every student drinks and drives. The backbone of the Drop Your Pride program is simple: Actions have consequences, both good and bad. Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. The importance comes in minimizing all unnecessary risk. What is the next best choice? The keys represent “Your Pride”, it is symbolic. Your keys are generally what get you in trouble after driving drunk. So you drank, find a ride home. Do not let your friends drive drunk or get in the car with someone who is drunk. I do not condone underage or excessive drinking, but I do realize that it is going to happen. 999 out of 1000 times, nothing bad happened to me. The one time it did, everything changed forever. Your parents would much rather get a call from you asking for a ride, than having the police call. Your parents would much rather pick you up than visit you in prison or your grave site.
I do not have the magic formula to eliminate drinking. My friend did not lose her life because I was drinking. She lost her life because I made the choice to drive after drinking. I do not educate on the science of alcohol, or cram statistical data into the 50-60 minute program. I simply relive the nightmare which I created for so many people on July 29th, 2001.
At the end of the day I realize I cannot deliver this message forever. I would much rather walk away from speaking on my own terms, than to be on stage and realize I can no longer connect. I actually have a rule (I created) called my 60/15. The 15 minutes before I go on stage to talk feels like an hour. The hour I am on stage feels like 15 minutes to me. When those numbers reverse, I know it is time to walk away.
I truly do this to help someone. I know that individuals are going to make their own decisions in life despite what I say or share. I always say if the fear of taking a life, losing a license, losing career opportunity, or hurting so many people doesn’t not deter you, try this one on for size. I am now a dad to a marvelous 21 month old girl. She thinks I am the funniest dude alive. Now, I am never going to be Father of the Year and that is ok. Perfect example: My wife left this morning for Dallas. She is excelling beyond anything I imagined with AdvoCare. I am in it with her but stayed back. Anyways early this morning she was being stubborn and only wanted noodles…aka Mac and Cheese. Now it was 7:30AM and my thought was “Yea that sounds good”, so we ate mac and cheese together at 7:30AM. What I also know is that little girls are supposed to look up to their dads and we can be their hero and it sounds glorious. One day, I am going to be forced to look her in the eyes and break her little heart. No matter how forgiving, understanding, or perhaps admirable she may see what I did to try and help, a small part of her heart will break when she learns about my past. Given the ultra-fast digital age we live in that day is going to come sooner than later, and I am not looking forward to it. I am grateful and blessed to have her, but I never thought when I was twenty one I would have to one day explain my past actions to my daughter. Believe me when I tell you, I do not share this for sympathy, and I never want someone to feel bad for me. I DID IT! I DESERVE THE CONSEQUENCES! Feel sorry for her family who never got to say goodbye.
The one thing that has always bothered me was when people say “Over time this will all get easier”. Truth is, each year it gets a little bit tougher to deal with. I am in the 15th year since the crash. Law of numbers says it cannot be rainy every day. So over time I have had some amazing experiences, and great days. I promise you this: No matter how great of a day I have, by the time I go to bed that good feeling gets trumped. I am confident Andrea’s family comes home with great days too. Probably share it with the family. The family probably agrees. But then they are reminded that it would be a little bit better if Andrea was there. Then they are reminded why she is not. Then they are reminded of me. I am the constant reminder as to why they can never have dinner with their daughter again. That will never be easy to deal with.
I appreciate all the support from the first post. I realize this can get lengthy. Rather than doing a novella I wanted to break it up into different segments. It is difficult as a speaker to transition to writing. I can be long winded and it looks as though it carries into my attempt to write.
The summer of 1999 leading into my freshman year at Mount Union College started off just how I had planned. I was in the best physical shape of my life, I was spending certain evenings working with the Quarterbacks at Mount doing 7 on 7. I was learning the offense, watching film, and working from 7 to 3 for the Stark County Board of Election office in Canton. For the first time I was also not playing summer baseball even though I would be playing at Mount. I wanted to focus on becoming a contributing player to a powerhouse football program and make some money working because I just turned 19 and needed to buy useless stuff (CD’s, DVD’s, food).
The best part of the summer job was that I was able to meet some phenomenal educators. I only did grunt work, but I loved it. I was paying in to the state retirement system and putting a few dollars in my pocket. In the back of my mind I knew one thing for sure: I wanted to be an elementary education teacher……First grade specifically. Maybe get a master’s degree, and one day maybe become a principal. I had the privilege of meeting a younger Mr. Gallina. He was a principal at the time and I saw the route I wanted to take. However I will not lie, sports were always in the front of my mind. I was the occasional A, mainly B’s, and sometimes a C student………..Except that infamous 4 D’s I pulled off in 4th grade…Is that even possible? Well I earned that feat back in the day. I lost a nice part of summer cutting grass, and learned some lessons along the way as well.
In late July of 1999 I was at Mount for a Saturday afternoon 7 on 7, which is a special football practice with 7 players on offense and defense. . Last play of the day was a “wheel route” with me as a primary target. I ran the route and the QB left it a little short…I stopped quickly to come back and…….POP! I immediately dropped to the ground and it hurt really bad for about 30 seconds, and then the pain went away.
After learning what had happened I felt defeated. The ACL in my left knee had torn. When it tore, it got tangled up in the joint of my knee and when this happened the knee never swelled up. I would be due back in two weeks for reconstructive surgery. 6-9 months rehabilitation, no football, and probably no baseball my first year in college. Look, I know this was not the end of the world. I get it. However, as a 19 year old it was monumental in my head. Of all the ways I could or should have processed that information something was going to give, and the timing was terrible. Being someone that was always part of a structured routine (school, practice, games) I was about to embark on college life with free time, scattered classes, and a chip on my shoulder. This was not a healthy combination for someone like me.
Up to this point in life I was not a drinker or into DRUGS at all. I did not party in HS, but I did drink on my senior trip to Canada fishing with my buddies. So literally, I could count on one hand the times I had a drink. A few days after having the knee scoped I remember drinking. I never thought it was going to become an issue and I certainly would never get behind the wheel after drinking. I did not even have a valid reason other than feeling sorry for myself. The Problem was I had lived a life to that point of always chasing the rush. Those natural “highs” I got from athletics. I had never realized how dependent we can become on “good addictions” as well as “evil addictions”. For all the wrong reasons, I began to fill the void with the very substances I was taught my whole life that only mask the problem temporarily. Unfortunately, I would also for the first time in my life begin to channel my energy into something that was not positive. Like I said before, if it is good for me, or bad for me, if I wanted to do it, I would. I quickly learned my tolerance was high, and nothing was ever “enough”.
A week or so after the reconstruction I was at a Freshman Orientation at Mount. That weekend I met a girl named Andrea. Everybody should know someone like this. The best way I could describe her is as follows: You know when everyone is sitting around at a friend’s house bored and miserable? Well Andrea was the person that would walk into a room and instantly bring energy. Outgoing, smart, pretty, athletic. We formed a friendship that will carry through this story. We never dated, she was my friend. We studied together, partied together, hung out together….everyone should know someone like this in your lifetime. She provided good positive vibes when she was around.
My first day on campus was August 1999. I hobbled up and down stairwells at Miller Hall with the help of my dad. I was still on crutches, my room had no air conditioning for the hot sweltering late August days, and I needed an air mattress since I was not going up that tiny bunk. This was Not exactly the most comfortable start of college life. The old man drove off, and I made my way to my first football practice.
The coaches and players were so welcoming and I was made to feel like part of the team. The problem was in my heart, it was destroying me to not be out there trying to earn time on the field. Sweating, getting yelled at, and making play is what football is all about. I think it would have been different if I was not in a position to contribute as a freshman. Knowing I could absolutely contribute to a team in the middle of an asinine run at annual perfection ending in National titles or title shots made it tougher. I was truly at a fork in the road in terms of life decisions. I chose to distance myself from it. I scheduled my knee rehabs around the practice times, did my homework, and left campus when there were home games. I know this seems terrible in terms of being a “team” player. I wanted them to win, I just could not be around it. Some may understand, while others may not. Either way, I realize why they encouraged me to be around every day. I wish I would of.
Over the course of the first semester, my grades were decent, knee was ahead of schedule, and I was drinking on weekends. Still would not drive, scared me to even think about. I made a push to get cleared for baseball freshman year and was able to play 5 months removed from surgery. By the end of my first year at Mount Union I noticed a change in my behavior. Now if I had 5 or 6 beers that “competitive gene” kicked in and my thinking was “as long as I am in control, nothing bad will happen”. I drove the speed limit and wore my seatbelt. Then with tolerance and risk meeting up, I became comfortable with my poor choices, and my thought process changed. I remember thinking “if I drive a litter faster, I get there a little quicker”, or “I do not need a seatbelt, nothing bad will happen to me”. The cycle was in motion and with every moment I got away with risky behavior, I was only pulling inches closer to disaster. Never was it a question of “IF”, I now realize it was only a matter of “WHEN”.
During the summer of 2000 I began my own downward spiral. That summer I began to lose interest in sports. Lazy, excuses, justification, I do not know, but I was committed to having fun and not working hard. I will not get into how much, how often, or for how long I messed around with alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs. Just know it was too much, too often, and too many times.
Nope! The next 6 ½ months would be filled with poor choices. I was no longer a positive influence. I knew I was out of control and a few close friends including Andrea pointed it out. During this span it was not even about the drinking. It was everything. I had built up a strong tolerance, and never came across as “drunk” in terms of falling or slurring or acting out. The body can only metabolize substances at certain rates. The more you consume, the longer it will take. My body was pretty much metabolizing something intoxicating at all times. After consistently partying and developing new patterns of destructive behavior, the risk taking drastically increased. The difference now was now I involved passengers and the safety of other drivers.
July 29th 2001
It was a Sunday. It was hot and humid out. I was working at a golf course that summer. In at 5:30 AM and I was done by noon or so. It was a great job in terms of being outside. I loved cutting grass in the early morning. However, being done by noon made for longer days of partying, and shorter nights of sleep. I was never late or missed work as a result of being out late the night before. On this particular morning I woke up sluggish and tired. Basically, my body was hurting from a solid run poor choices. My gut was to stay home after work that day. We finished up by 9:30AM that day and I headed home to relax the rest of the day. The phone rang early in the afternoon and it was Andrea. She wanted to know what I was doing that day. She wanted to know if I wanted to get something to eat…..her exact words… “You do not even have to drink”. She saw the path I was on and it had even grabbed her attention as we had lengthy talks about some of my choices. I remember thinking “ok cool, I will come and get you”. I hung up the phone and knew I was going to drink that day. I told myself I was not going to drink as much as usual but I was going to drink. Again, when you consume a majority of the time your system is loaded. I picked her up and we headed to the bar.
At the bar I choked down two 24 ounce draft beers. I did it on the down low because I did not want to hear it from Andrea. She had a couple drinks and some food. A friend of mine had called and said she was working nearby and people were coming in. I told Andrea we were going 5 minutes down the road. We gathered our stuff and walked out of the bar.
UNDERSTAND THIS: There was not anyone outside of the bar holding a sign saying “Be careful” or “watch out”. Honestly, thinking about it, I truly believed I was invincible. I did not think actions had negative consequences. In my head nothing would go wrong. We both got in my truck and did not put on our seatbelts.
I remember being at a red light and thinking I needed to turn left when the light turned green. After it turned I went straight through the light which was legal, but I needed to turn. Hindsight is 20/20 but I am first to admit I was not clear minded that day. As soon as I did it, I thought “Damn needed to turn. No worries we will detour”. A few more turns and we were at a red light less than a mile from my parents and even closer to the restaurant. The exact conversation went something like this: “What do you want to do? My parent’s house is to the right, and the restaurant is to the left”. “Let’s go see your friends and then swing by your parent’s house”. The speed limit on this particular road was 35mph. My own agenda, my own rules. Light turned green and I made the turn. When I made the turn there was a car in front of me a little ways down the road following the rules. I began to accelerate, 25, 35, 40…….Andrea was talking to me and to this day I could not tell you what she said. I do remember it was funny and I laughed taking my eyes off the road as I continued to gain speed. When I looked back at the road the car in front of me, was now immediately in front of me as they slowed to make a turn. They said I was going 62mph as I looked to the road simultaneously going over a set of railroad tracks. Slamming on my breaks in fear of hitting the car in front of me, I began to lose control of the vehicle. I thought I saw a little girl in the backseat of the car in front and trust me when I tell you there were a million things running through my head in a matter of seconds. It all narrowed to: Left or Right. If I go straight I am going to hit this car. To the left was miniature telephone posts with steel cables connecting to the next one, all the way down. Last thought was do not go left……I jerked the wheel to the right, my truck flipped 3 times and wrapped around a telephone pole. I have no memory from the time I jerked the wheel until about 15 minutes later when the most haunting phrase was spoken. Outside my mangled truck I heard one gentleman speaking to another…. “There are no survivors, they are both dead”. Both dead? This was a bad dream. This was not happening. I did everything in my power to wake up. Trying to convince myself to wake up. All of a sudden the signs became far too real, and the consequences were damaging and permanent.
Coming in the part 3: The ripple effect and its consequences.
About Aaron Cooksey
I was born in North Canton, Ohio, and raised by two of the most loving parents any child could ask for. They taught me many lessons in life, including making the right choices, and they allowed me to channel my energy and find my passions. As a child, I discovered a love of sports, and I excelled through high school in football, basketball, and baseball. Going on to earn 8 varsity letters, I became a leader both in the classroom and on the athletic field. Wanting to pursue a career as an elementary education teacher, I turned down several scholarship offers and decided to play two sports while attending Mount Union College.
My story began when, one month before my college football debut, I tore my ACL. Shortly afterward, I experienced my first drink of alcohol. Over the following year, I began the destructive cycle of drinking and driving.
As I neared the end of my recovery, and prepared to return to the field, I was crushed by a second tear of my ACL. My despair following this injury proved to be a deadly factor in my decision making. As I continued down this path of destruction, I was the cause of an accident that resulted in the death of my best friend.
In addition to serving 4 years in prison, and having my driver’s license taken away for life, I realized that this nightmare I had helped create had affected hundreds of people.
After returning from prison, I graduated with a degree in Corporate Communications from Walsh University. Dedicating a short time to speaking with Ohio based schools and organizations, word began to travel fast and I realized that I was able to make a real impact by sharing my story. Four years after my release from prison, I chose to leave my corporate career, and I decided to focus full all my energy making a difference through my speaking. Because of the choices I have made, I cannot become a teacher. But, I have made the next best choice, and now travel the country educating young adults about my life.
I now live outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and work independently, dedicated to improving the lives of young adults everywhere.
Coach Mike Grady
Coach Grady has 10 years experience working with pitchers of all ages through private and group instruction, including 6 years experience as a college pitching coach. This blog is dedicating to helping pitchers of all ages improve their game.