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Football standout inspires through personal drug recovery ministry

August 18, 2019

David Cox visits the Daviess County Detention Center every other week for a service on Wednesdays and said his heart is for jail ministry and those in addiction or recovery and families of those struggling with addiction and recovery. | Photo submitted

David Cox is on a mission to share God’s grace. He said his message is for the many who are without hope, and every conversation is an opportunity for him to share God’s message and His love.

Cox said he doesn’t know why he struggled with addiction, but he unflinchingly knows he would not be where he is today without divine intervention.

Growing up in Owensboro, Cox said his life was normal. He always had what was needed, but was middle- to low-class.

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Cox said that his father smoked but that it was a rarity if alcohol was consumed or purchased by his parents when they went shopping.

At the forefront of his extracurricular activities was sports. Cox strived to be the best, often having coaches comment that he wasn’t fast enough or tall enough, but those are what drove his underdog personality to do everything he could to prove them wrong.

“I did intensive work outside of practices — running under streetlights in the neighborhood and lifting weights,” Cox said. “I became really strong really fast, and it helped and [sports] just fell into place.”

As a football standout at Apollo High School, also playing baseball, basketball and running track, Cox said that being an athlete was his identity.

“I now realize that football was an idol for me,” Cox said. “I put football first. I quit baseball after my freshman year because I realized track would be more beneficial to a football career.”

Along with sports, girls and friends were tied for second place in Cox’s high school days. With these friends, Cox drank and smoked marijuana.

“The first time, I was 12 or 13 [years old],” Cox said. “It started with peer pressure — to fit in.”

Cox said this behavior was not a problem because football was his priority, but at 15 years old, Cox tried meth for the first time.

“It made me feel different than anything I had ever done before, but I knew I couldn’t do that and football,” Cox said.

With a desire to play Division I football, Cox continued to work, earning an honorable mention for All-State football both as a running back on offense and linebacker on defense, something that is uncommon, Cox said.

He was still socially drinking alcohol three to four times a month.

After graduation, Cox went to Murray State University as a preferred walk-on where he would be evaluated for a year while on the team and then the coaching staff would determine if he would receive a scholarship, which he did right before winter break.

The next year, Cox rotated in a game as a second-string lineman, and from that point on, started each game.

“I was still socially and recreationally using and partying, but I still had football,” Cox said of his idol.

After a football camp prior to his senior year, Cox said he was on his way home from purchasing alcohol when he was arrested for driving under the influence. Houston Nutt was in his first year of coaching, and Cox said it was a blessing to have him as a coach, but Nutt had to suspend Cox from playing the season opener because of the DUI.

In 1994, Cox graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in math, a minor in physics and a secondary teaching certificate. He accepted a job to teach in Clarksville, Tenn., but the dream of playing professional football was still alive.

Cox’s agent said that he didn’t have the height and speed they were looking for but Cox had heart, something coaches would love if they would just notice him.

An offer came through to play for a professional startup team in Tampa, Fl. that would pay Cox $40,000 for three months of play.

Two days before he was to leave for Tampa, his agent called to say the team had not secured the necessary funding and had folded.

Cox was teaching high school math in Clarksville, Tenn., and coaching football as an assistant, while also coaching track and wrestling and running the strength conditioning program for most of the high school athletic programs.

His first year, he received the Golden Apple Award, which is given to the best teacher, and he also married a girl he met while at Murray. Cox said things were “going good.”

But then her father got sick, and she moved back to Kentucky to take care of him.

Cox began to go out at night — at first for half-price appetizers and to socialize, he said, but later it was more to go to bars and drink.

And he began visiting Owensboro to hunt with his friends and began “dabbling” in meth.

His then-wife found some meth he had taken back to Clarksville, but he denied that he was using. However, he kept coming back to Owensboro and using, which became apparent to his spouse who confided in her manager and later had a relationship with him.

“It was too far gone, she left me for him,” Cox said.

At this point, Cox said that his life began spiraling out of control. He was using meth daily and would spend all night looking at pornography. When he would run out of meth, he would drive back to Owensboro to get it — even in the middle of the night — and return to the classroom and field the next day.

The head football coach tried to talk to him and, again, Cox denied using drugs. In 2001, Cox became the head football coach.

“I don’t even know how I kept my job,” Cox said.

A previous girlfriend from college moved with her son to be with Cox and they bought a house that had a lake and acreage.

“From the world’s view, I was looking good,” Cox said.

However, both were using meth and Cox said he never felt satisfied, even though the football program was going well and they were playing in postseason games every year.

Cox said that his drug use took him to a place he would never have imagined — smoking meth on the way to school and often during his lunch period and again during his end-of-the-day planning period in his coaching office before football practice. Without it, Cox said, he would fall asleep.

“That’s what addiction does,” Cox said. “It takes you to places you never dreamed of.”

The financial cost of using was something Cox couldn’t keep up with, so he began buying the ingredients and someone else was making it at a discounted price.

His high school principal came to Cox and told him he was losing his job, but that he had one year to “get it together.” At the end of the year, Cox was to show counseling documents to the principal to be evaluated.

That year never came. As Cox was on his way to the class of 2002’s graduation with his wife and child, the person who was manufacturing meth, now on his property, called to say that Cox’ house was burning down.

Cox dropped his wife and child at graduation and went home. The fire chief was there and was addressing Cox as “coach” because his daughter had been in Cox’ class.

“He had no suspicions and I lied,” Cox said of the anhydrous ammonia tank (used to make meth) that was sitting in his driveway, which he said was because he was doing some farming with his son.

“Literally, my life was over and had gone up in smoke,” Cox said.

His girlfriend and son left; she went back to Louisville and checked into rehab.

Cox moved back to Owensboro and moved into his mother’s house. His mother was suspicious of Cox’ drug habit and wrote him notes to persuade him to stop. Cox was making meth mainly for himself and would drive to Louisville to shop at stores there and get the supplies needed to manufacture large batches.

“I would go through the self-checkout and I knew how to do it where they wouldn’t be suspicious,” Cox said. “I would scan peanut butter, then Sudafed, then bread, then batteries…”

He would go to a home store and buy bulk packs of batteries and then drive back to Owensboro.

In 2003, Owensboro Police Department was tipped off and raided Cox’ house. They found five active meth labs and left the house with three truckloads of suspicious items. Cox was arrested and his family embarrassed.

After nine months in a Louisville rehab, Judge Tom Castlen sentenced Cox to 12 years in prison. Cox did 29 months in a combination of prison and a halfway house as part of the program.

“I did all I could to get parole the first time I was eligible,” Cox said. “In October 2006, I made it.”

From October 2006 to February 2007, Cox said life was “good.” He had a job repairing appliances, but he had not continued going to church and reading the Bible, something that had helped while he was in prison.

“Then Valentine’s Day 2007,” Cox said. “I was lonely, 30-something, living with my mom…Poor me. I went to Louisville and got meth.”

Cox said he thought he would be able to use every once in a while, which turned into weekends and then it was a necessity to function. The cost of the meth was the reason he began manufacturing meth again.

A year later, Cox had was living with a woman named Joyce and her two sons when they found out she was pregnant. He was still using.

In 2010, they came to Owensboro for the funeral of his friend’s father. This friend was one who used with him and since they were running out of meth, Cox said he would make some. During the last step in making it, Cox fell asleep in the then-White Castle parking lot with two cups of meth in his cup holders.

He woke to a female police officer in his car shaking him awake while sitting in the passenger seat.

“She had tried to tap on my window and I did not respond,” Cox said.

The trunk of his car held the evidence, so Cox knew where he was headed.

“That’s when God changed my life,” Cox said.

As Cox was walked into the police station, he said God gave him a flash of his life all at once. In that moment, Cox said he realized he couldn’t keep “messing up.”

“I asked God to steer my ship because when I do, I have wrecks,” Cox said.

Daviess County Detention Center jailer Art Maglinger was there that day and Cox said this is important to him and his story.

“Art and I have that connection,” Cox said. “When I shared my story at the National Day of Prayer, Art was behind me in uniform.”

Cox started his “walk with the Lord” that day and many have helped along the way, including Roger Chilton, Executive Director of Friends of Sinners.

Chilton was at Daviess County Detention Center when Cox shared his story and offered for him to come to Friends of Sinners 10 months later. Cox was unsure but said that one night he awoke and couldn’t go back to sleep. He began reading devotionals and after three that referenced this decision, Cox knew that God had been sending him messages about helping and sending people to him.

He was court-ordered to Friends of Sinners, a Christ-centered residential recovery program in June of 2011.

Cox knew he would return to prison for the two Class A felonies, a Class C and Class D charge as well. This time, it was Judge Joe Castlen on the bench.

Castlen told Cox he had been watching him and had been losing sleep over the case, something Cox feels was God’s intervention. Castlen lessened the charges for Cox and gave 15 years total for his sentencing.

“He said he didn’t want to but there was no other way,” Cox said. “He asked if there was anything he could do for me and I asked him to please let me spend the summer with my kids.”

Cox returned to DCDC in August. He said that most offenders do not get to leave the jail, but that he believes this was God telling him he was not going to jail to do time, but that he was on a mission “to show the love of Jesus 24/7.”

“He had been leading me on this for two-and-a-half years,” Cox said. “People go all over for mission trips, but they can’t go in jails. I had a God-given opportunity to go and share hope [to other prisoners].”

While there, Cox said there are so many things that happened positively that have no other explanation but God’s hand being involved. Cox spoke many times and noticed the interest of the other prisoners who were hearing from a “guy just like them in an orange jumpsuit.”

When he arrived at Roederer Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Ky., he found an inmate from his first stint there. Both had changed.

“In 2003, we were sharing meth recipes and now, 10 years later, we were sharing Bible verses and singing songs with our hands in the air praising God,” Cox said.

The first day at Roederer, Cox said, was a sure sign of God’s work. On this day, Cox was given parole, something he was sure was wrong.

“I asked the parole board if I could go back to Friends of Sinners to help with others,” Cox said. “It took 30 days to process my release, and when I got out, I became staff at Friends of Sinners.”

Cox and Joyce had begun rekindling their relationship but going back to Friends of Sinners left the family devoid of Cox emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially.

Cox knew he wanted to be with his family, so after six months, he joined the laborers’ union and took a job with Danco Construction, where he is still employed.

In December 2014, Cox and Joyce married and purchased a home.

Cox visits the Daviess County Detention Center every other week for a service on Wednesdays and said his heart is for jail ministry and those in addiction or recovery and families of those struggling with addiction and recovery.

He said there are triggers that bring back memories of his addiction, but when they do, he remembers to “play that tape all the way through.”

“We know the end of the story,” Cox said.

August 18, 2019

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