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Following freak accident, Thunder Ridge quarterback makes most of opportunity, life

September 18, 2018
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Varsity quarter back Dalton Cook makes a pass during the first practice for Thunder Ridge’s Titans on Monday, August 6, 2018. Cook survived getting hit by a train last December, eventually being cleared to play contact sports three months after the accident. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Thunder Ridge High School senior quarterback Dalton Cook is ready for anything.

A 200-pound linebacker blitzing through the “A” gap. A defensive lineman sandwiching him behind the line of scrimmage. It doesn’t matter who it is, Cook can take a hit. Hardly any defender fazes him.

Nicknamed “Cookie” by coaches and teammates, he’s a tough cookie to break.

He’s been hit hard before. He’s been hit by a train.

“It’s truly a miracle that I’m still alive and able to play football,” Cook said. “I do feel tougher. Like, if I can get hit by a train, I can get hit out on the football field. Like, it’s nothing.”

Last December, Cook — then a member of the Bonneville High School basketball team before transferring to Thunder Ridge in the fall — was driving home from practice.

Near Iona Hill, Cook drove across a set of train tracks he crosses almost every day. He said he doesn’t remember seeing a train, as there’s plenty of trees that could obscure driver’s sight line. He said there’s almost never any trains coming through.

That night, there was a train.

Next thing Cook remembers, he was in Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. There were tubes coming out of his body. He was hooked up to a ventilator.

Cook’s left lung was collapsed and eight ribs on his left side were broken. His spleen exploded.

The left side of his car, which landed in a nearby field, was destroyed.

On impact, he said he ended up on the passenger side with his feet by the steering wheel.

“You saw the pictures of his car and your heart dropped,” Thunder Ridge wide receiver and friend Trey Howell said. “I think he’s really grown physically, and also emotionally. You know the cliché, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. I think that really applies to him.”

Cook stayed in the hospital for about eight days, and the intensive care unit for four.

In regard to his rehabilitation, Howell said Cook “just kept his head down and did what he had to do to get back.”

About three months following the crash, Cook said, he was back playing football and basketball.

There were questions whether his left lung could sustain physical contact — a tackle or a charge in basketball. Cook said he still has some back pain from the incident.

But there’s no questioning Cook’s quiet toughness and determination. Bonneville boys basketball coach John Tucker said not much can stop Cook from playing the sports he’s passionate about.

“It was really hard for him (to change schools),” Tucker said. “No one is ever guaranteed anything. But when he had the chance to go and be the quarterback (at Thunder Ridge) — that was his driving force. He wanted to play football so bad, and wanted to play quarterback since he was a little kid, there wasn’t going to be anything that gets in his way.

“Not even a train,” Tucker added.

Tucker, who has a close relationship with Cook after the quarterback played for him for three years, was one of the first to see him the night he was taken to EIRMC.

Tucker said he was “mind-blown” to see a kid he cares about and coaches go through such adversity.

“I believe in God and higher purpose,” Tucker said. “And to see him go through that, he had someone watching over him that night. He’s got something else down the road and ahead of him.”

Surviving the freak train accident, Cook now has a special 2018 ahead of him.

He’s trying to get the first-year program its first win, despite Thunder Ridge being outscored 140-7 during its first three games.

Howell said Cook is a vocal leader, as Howell and Cook are two of six seniors listed on the Titans’ roster.

He already owns a piece of school history, too, being a part of the school’s first ever touchdown (a 13-yard pass to Kaysen Isom during week one).

“It just happened and you have to move on and I did the best I could,” Cook said. “Yeah, it was hard, but things could be so much worse. I could not be even able to walk right now but I’m out here playing the game I love.”

No one knows what Cook’s athletic future holds.

One thing is almost certain: nothing will stop him.

Not even a train.

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