By David Fong
TROY — Dan Cox remembers a simpler time in a magical place.
“I am so grateful for where I grew up,” Cox said. “As a kid who loved playing sports, I couldn’t have asked for a better set up than to grow up in Troy when I did. I remember being a kid watching some unbelievable teams play. I was in junior high when Troy had those great, undefeated football teams. When you are 14, you don’t realize you are seeing the best high school football team you will ever see.
“I loved growing up in Troy and playing sports outside with my friends. It’s funny now, seeing all of these commercials encouraging kids to go outside and play for 60 minutes. When I was a kid, we started playing sports in the morning, came back for dinner and then went right back outside again. Our parents had to make us come inside.”
Cox’s love of sports would continue all through his high school career at Troy, where he starred in three sports — football, basketball and baseball — and on through his career at the University of Toledo, where he played both football and baseball, as he remains the only athlete in Toledo history to earn four varsity letters in both sports.
For all his accomplishments in all the sports he played, Cox —will be inducted into this year’s Troy Athletic Hall of Fame class. Joining him in this year’s class will be coach Hildred Byrkett (who coached at Troy from 1945-1974), athlete/coach Vicki Felver (class of 1968), football player Jason Manson (class of 1997) and football player Todd Denlinger (class of 2005).
The five will be introduced prior to Friday’s Troy football game against Cincinnati Turpin in officially inducted in a ceremony Saturday at the Bravo Room in Hobart Arena. Byrkett will be inducted posthumously.
“It’s a tremendous honor, but for me, it was always about the people I played with,” Cox said. “I never felt like I was any better than any of my teammates. I didn’t play sports because I wanted to get any awards; I played sports because I enjoyed it.”
At Troy, Cox earned three letters in football, starting at quarterback his junior and senior seasons. He also earned all-district and All-Western Ohio League honors.He also earned three varsity letters in baseball starting in center field. As a senior, he was named All-Ohio, all-district, All-WOL and played in the Ohio All-Star Game. During the summers, he played for the Troy Post 43 legion baseball team, hitting .393, .400 and .426, while also stealing 92 of 92 bases. He also played two years of varsity basketball for the Trojans.
Cox said playing all three sports in high school helped him tremendously throughout his college career.
“When I played football at Toledo, I had to return punts because I was the one who could track down the ball,” he said. “Where did I learn that? Playing center field. When I would play defensive back, I would use my hands to check receivers. Where did I learn that? Playing basketball. When you’re young, you play ‘em all.”
Playing ‘em all in college — or at least playing two of them — was Cox’s goal in college. He had an offer from Ohio State to play baseball, but not football. He had an offer from Ohio University to play football, but not baseball. Ultimately, he settled on Toledo, where he was offered the opportunity to play both sports. He earned a full scholarship to play football, but was told he could play baseball in the spring, provided he actually was playing and not just riding the bench.
“They told me I could miss spring football if I was actually playing,” he said. “I remember I took my first college trip to southern Florida and the first time I was at bat, I hit a home run. I think I came back from the trip hitting .411 or something like that. From that point on, I played baseball every year and never had to go through spring football. The football players were all jealous of me — they hated spring football.
“I don’t think the football coaches expected baseball to work out for me like it did. Every year when I would come back for football in the fall, I was at the bottom of the depth chart. They had put everyone ahead of me, including the true freshmen. But by the first game of the year, I was always back in the starting line-up.”
Cox would letter in both sports all four years, then spend one year in the New York Yankees’ minor-league organization, hitting .344. He currently lives in South Carolina.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong