EL CENTRO — Central Union High School’s Skylar Cook recently committed to the University of New Mexico for a football scholarship and held an announcement and thank-you ceremony at the Eagles Hall in El Centro Thursday, January 12.
Current coaches, former coaches, friends, family, team mates, and supporters filled the hall adorned in red and black Lobo decor.
Local sports trainer and strength & conditioning specialist Anthony Hellum opened the ceremony by first addressing Cook’s mother, Dawn McKinnie.
“Dawn, you're 3-0,” said Hellum in reference to her third son Skylar’s ascent from high school to the collegiate level.
“I congratulate the whole family, everybody who came out, coaches - you guys know what you did on your half, trainers, and whoever else is out here supporting Skylar," said Hellum. “A lot went into this from his freshman year to now. There is a long road ahead of him. The next four years is going to be a rocky road but my man can do it.”
Skylar spoke next.
“First of all, I just want to start off by saying all glory to God," said Cook. "This wouldn’t be possible without the man upstairs.”
He then thanked his friends and teammates before continuing his speech.
“The off-the-field moments is what I enjoy most with you guys, whether it be in the locker room, dinners, bus rides, and things like that,” said Cook.
Skylar proceeded to tell a story about almost leaving after his sophomore year.
“I just felt that would be the best decision for me,” said Cook. “I didn’t, I ended up staying at Central and it ended up being the best decision I made and it was because of my teammates. To the older guys: thank you for just taking me in and teaching me. To the younger guys: I’ll always be here for you. The younger guys are probably some of my best friends. Really enjoyed giving you guys rides home and giving you guys advice.”
Skylar thanked community, family, and mother’s co-workers for being there at times when mother was away at work. He also thanked the coaches that allowed him to create his path and helped improve his IQ of the game.
“To Ant (Anthony Hellum), thank you for everything, you kind of just took me in when I was younger and when both my brothers were away, you were somebody I could talk to,” said Cook. “When mom was at work and wasn’t home, the gym was always open. I really appreciate you being there for me and believing in me.”
Skylar fought back tears as he addressed his brothers, Brandon Andrews and Randy Andrews.
“I couldn't have asked for any better role models - thank you guys,” said Cook. “You guys are my biggest fans and I really appreciate that.”
Skylar highlighted how his brothers never want to hear about what’s going-on on the field, they just want to know about what’s going on in his life.
“To mom, I don’t think there are any words to describe how appreciative I am,” said Cook. “Both my brothers were gone at an early age and so you and I just had that connection. I appreciate you so much. You’re my best friend and you’ve always been there for me.”
Brandon Andrews, spoke next.
“I’m just really proud of Skylar, said B. Andrews. “The accolades for football, that’s all fun and really nice to see but the thing I’m most proud of is definitely the person that he is. He got to see at an early age a little bit and watch me and Randy (older brother) and learn to do things his own way; do them differently than we did and I think it’s just made him a better person, a better friend, a better son, and I’m just really proud of the man that he’s becoming. He is an inspiration to both Randy and I. He makes us want to be better people.”
Mother, Dawn elaborated on how much of an impact family and community had on Skylar.
“It’s great to have what we have as a family,” said McKinnie. “There’s nothing greater than family and the best part of all of this is the support. Over the many years all the support you all have given my son and my boys is just totally beyond words. Tonight is something that Skylar requested. He wanted to say thank you to all of you because you’ve affected him in some way or another throughout his life. Thank you for the years of continued support. Not everyone has the community we have.”
McKinnie then addressed Skylar directly.
“I’m so proud of you,” said McKinnie. “Not because of the awards, or because you got a football scholarship, or because you’ve got academic awards, it’s the human being that you are and the big heart that you have.”
Spartan head coach David Peña also spoke.
“Thank you, Skylar, for your leadership,” said Peña. “The leadership you brought to the team but not only that but the leadership you passed down. Everything is passed down from generation to generation and at Central, that’s a legacy. And Skylar understood that legacy of being a leader and passing that down to the next guy. Continue to attack the process. Continue to follow the process and you’re going to do a tremendous job in whatever you do in life.”
Former teammate, friend, and fellow grid-iron standout Jordan Reed gave Skylar words of motivation to close.
“It’s time to go,” said Reed. “It’s only the beginning from here. It doesn’t stop here. It’s going to get harder but you understand that.”