MISSOULA, Mont. - For many college football players, two-a-day practices and winter conditioning are among the toughest things they will ever face. Former Griz linebacker Cole Lockwood however, would embrace those days again in a heartbeat. Earlier this month, after several weeks of back pain, Lockwood found a lump in his stomach and was officially diagnosed with cancer.
"I couldn't talk, I couldn't walk, I just had a blank stare on my face and I was looking at the ground," recalled Lockwood of the day he heard the news. "And I just started to cry because I didn't know what else to do."
The initial shock of being diagnosed with cancer would be devastating to any 25-year old. But challenges are nothing new to Cole Lockwood. Despite not winning a single football game in his high school career, Lockwood always stayed positive and gave the gridiron everything he had. Then he walked onto the Griz football team where he battled everyday to prove himself.
"Nothing was ever given to me; everything had to be earned. I loved Griz nation and I wanted to play football," said Lockwood. "The cure isn't going to be handed to me, I'm going to have to show up every day early and fight the good fight."
"We even received some more bad news this past Friday that he had a blood clot in his lungs and one in his leg and he still was saying ‘No it's going to be okay, I'm still going to get better,'" said Cole's wife Alexa.
"When it initially happened I felt sick," said Jordan Tripp, a friend and former UM teammate of Lockwood. "But at the same time Cole is such a strong kid and such a fighter with such a big heart that's he not going to give up on anything."
"It's awesome to see him with that sort of attitude and to see the community support behind him," smiled Alexa.
Montana Grizzly club baseball head coach Ryan Sharkey has known Lockwood his entire life. Upon hearing the terrible news it took Sharkey just a few days to turn this weekend's home baseball series against Montana State into a fundraiser to help Cole in his fight with cancer. Half the gate fees will go to the Lockwoods and a silent auction will be held as well with proceeds benefiting the recently diagnosed cancer patient.
"He said ‘I want to do this for you, is it okay?'", said Lockwood. "I was just so floored that he would think of me and want to do such a big event to help me out."
"Cole is definitely one of the toughest kids I know," explained Sharkey. "He comes from a great family and he's been a great friend of mine my entire life. Cole lived for Cat-Griz his whole life and I just figured why not."
"Don't donate with your pocket, donate with your heart," said Tripp. "And you know that's exactly what Cole would do in this situation."
"We're very excited to do something good for one of the nicest people I've ever met," said Emmitt Stangel, a veteran catcher for the Griz baseball team. "It's a horrible thing what he and his family are going through right now and I think we're just really excited to do something for a great guy, a great family and just trying to improve his life as best as we can."
"Anything we can do to help him out," added senior Griz baseball player Brad Bell. "I mean it's a tough situation what he and his are going through right now. I mean anything that we can do, that the community can do. Just come out and watch and donate whatever you can. It doesn't have to be a lot, anything to help him out would be awesome."
"For them to rally around me, play a game for me, or take some of the hard-earned money that the athletes need to keep something going, and try to give back to me is mind-blowing," said Cole Lockwood. "I really appreciate it."
The upcoming baseball series will just be the latest installation in what's been an outpouring of support the Lockwoods have seen in the last two weeks.
"There have been so many people that have supported me just because they're Griz fans," said Cole Lockwood. "Not because they know me, or I've ever talked to them or because I've done something nice for them. But just because they love the Griz and they truly, truly care about everyone. I'm going to try and write all this down because there are things I never want to forget and there are people that I never want to forget."
"We just can't keep up with thanking people because we have so many people that are fighting for us and supporting us and praying for us so it's been really incredible," added Alexa.
For more information on the Griz baseball series and fundraising effort this weekend, check out the facebook event here.
To help and donate directly to the Lockwoods, click here.