Le Roy remembers Hooks
Submitted by Brian Hillabush on November 6, 2008 - 11:10pm
I didn't know who the older man that was always at Le Roy practices for a few years. All I knew was that he seemed very nice and the kids liked him.
A few years back, he came up to me and shook my hand. He told me how much he appreciated what I did for the kids and how much he enjoyed reading my previews and coverage of Le Roy football.
That was the beginning of my relationship with Don "Hooks" Robertson.
I spend a lot of time at Le Roy games and practices during football season because it is the top program in this area, so I have gotten to know a lot of great people over the years.
Hooks is one of the most special.
I wrote a story about him in 2006 when he was battling cancer, and we became sort-of practice buddies after that. When the Oatkan Knights won the Class C title that year, the team gave the trophy to Hooks outside of the locker rooms at PAETEC Park, and the man was in his glory.
He had been through a lot, fighting off lung, throat, neck and back cancer. But when the kids that won that title showed him how much they appreciated what he had done, it was enough to render him speechless and make the tears stream down his face.
"It was a total shock to me," Robertson told me days after the contest. "I was thinking more about the kids and winning, not myself. I couldn't believe they gave me the trophy. Football is in my blood and I just broke down."
Hooks was back on the sidelines in 2007, and seemed to be in fairly good health. But the cancer had come back, not that he would ever talk about it. He always talked to me about football and the kids.
He passed away this summer.
I remember hearing that his days were numbered and wanted to get out and see him one last time. I had just had the first of two Carpal Tunnel surgeries when I heard his time was getting close. My second surgery came on the day that he died.
There were complications with the surgery and I was in a lot of pain. But I found myself thinking about Hooks more than the minor health problems I was dealing with.
I never made it out to the funeral. It killed me, but I couldn't drive and getting a ride wound up being impossible. But in my mind, I was there.
Hooks is still with the Le Roy football team. Not physically, but so many players and coaches on that team have had special relationships with him that it is impossible for them not to think about him as Le Roy plays Oakfield-Alabama in the Class C finals Friday night.
I was never able to write about Hooks because of the surgery. But as the Oatkan Knights go into the finals, I find myself missing a good friend. Heck, I barely knew the man and I know how special he was. Just a good guy that loved Le Roy football and the kids that put in the effort. I couldn't even imagine what those close to him are feeling.
I put together a video that includes conversations with quarterback Travis Fenstermaker and coach Brian Moran, along with some amazing video of his grandson - Brock Pasquale - giving him the game ball after scoring a touchdown in the playoffs.
(special thank you to Ed Henry from www.leroyfootball.com for some video footage and photos)