2023 Male Comeback Athlete of the Year: Joe Cooley
UK HealthCare Sports Medicine is proud to present the 2023 Male Comeback Athlete of the Year Award. This year's recipient is Joe Cooley, a senior from Lloyd Memorial High School in Erlanger.
Two Comeback Athlete of the Year Awards — given to one male student-athlete and one female student-athlete — are presented annually to young people who have overcome illness or injury that affected their ability to participate in sports sanctioned by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Athletic trainers from across Kentucky review nominees submitted to the KHSAA, and recipients are determined based on their sportsmanship, ethical behavior on and off the field, and academic standing.
Congratulations to Joe Cooley on being this year's male recipient!
Joe's abilities earned him a starting job on the football team in 2019, but his body had other plans. Since the start of that season, Joe has battled a pulmonary embolism; a broken hand; a blood clot in his knee; microfractures in his femur and tibia; a torn ACL and MCL; a partial tear of his repaired ACL; and, most recently, a broken arm suffered during his team's appearance in the Class 2A football state semifinals.
Joe was nominated by Bill Pilgram, the athletic director at Lloyd Memorial High School.
"Throughout the last three years when Joe wasn't cleared to play in a game or practice, he never missed a game or practice," Pigram wrote in his nomination letter. "He supported his teammates through and through whether he could play or not. He is respected by his teammates, peers, coaches and teachers, and is a pillar of the school community."
This winter, Joe was able to return to the basketball court for the first time since his freshman season. And despite all of his setbacks, Joe remains a star in the classroom, where he maintains a 4.05 GPA. His commitment to academics and athletics has earned him a spot on the football team at Georgetown College beginning in the fall.
"Joe never made excuses or felt sorry for himself," Pilgram wrote. "Hope was his guide. He's one of the most resilient teenagers that I have ever worked with."