Corks’ sports participation not limited by cerebral palsy

jemarcuscutoutJamarcus Corks is not your typical jock.

The large motorized wheelchair is probably a clue, but Jamarcus is as much a part of the Lamar University sports community as the tallest basketball player or the strongest member of the football team.

The Orange senior, who has cerebral palsy, is a manager for the baseball and football teams, as well as a sports broadcasting major.

“Cerebral palsy and sports tie together very well, because sports actually help me deal with it,” he says. “When I got into sports, it kind of forced me to be around other people. I got used to being around people, they got used to me, they learned me, and I learned them, and I took on more of their traits, and they took on a lot of mine.”

Jamarcus says that sports has been his passion since he was a child, especially attending West Orange-Stark High School, where football is king.

“I went to all the games and cheered along with everybody else,” he says. “I screamed and hollered until I went hoarse, and I would stay out until about midnight, one in the morning at a football game, and my mom would never understand why.  She’s like, ‘I don’t see why you’re so crazy about this,’ and I was like, ‘I love it.’”

Although Jamarcus cannot physically compete, he says he feels he is a part of the team.

“I’m with these guys every day, every game, every practice — rain, sleet, snow, blazing sun — I’m there with them every day, and it’s a privilege to say that I’m a part of this team, I’m a part of this organization,” he says. “I help these guys out whenever I can. It’s also an honor (that they) claim me and speak of me the way that they do.

“I do this because I feel like if I’m not doing this, if I’m not doing something, that I’m wasting my time — that I’m not doing what God put me here to do. I have changed lives simply by standing there with a smile on my face. I have inspired people to be better just by standing there with a smile on my face.”

Jamarcus Corks watches from near the dugout during a recent Cardinals baseball game.

Jamarcus Corks watches from near the dugout during a recent Cardinals baseball game.

Jamarcus smiles a lot. In fact, it is probably his most dominant feature. He smiles despite a tough upbringing, of which his cerebral palsy is down on the list. One of his earliest memories is a visit to a specialist.

“The doctors told me I didn’t have a purpose in life,” he says. “That was a complete and total shut down. When I was three or four years old, they said I would probably never walk.

“That turned out to not be true, because being around regular kids, I was just like, ‘I want to be like them, I don’t want to be stuck in this wheelchair for the rest of my life, I don’t want to be unable to walk, I don’t want to be a vegetable.’”

The idea of someone having to tend to him every second every day is torture, Jamarcus says.

“It kills me — I don’t know why, I don’t know what does, it just flips off this thing in my head and I’m just like, ‘Go away!’” he says. “If you’re a friend and you’re just following me around that’s cool, but if you’re following me around and helping, let me get that myself.”

Jamarcus rolls his eyes as he describes every day occurrences in which people think they are helping.

“Heaven forbid I drop my phone, my wallet, my keys — Oh my lord, people flip out,” he says. “And don’t even mention if I would fall. If I fall down while walking, all hell breaks loose.”

At first, Jamarcus would act appreciative of the assistance, but a few years ago, he started standing up for himself.

“I’m tougher than I look, trust me,” he said. “I fall all the time. When I go home, I fall all the time. My parents do not freak out, and they’re in their 70s. They don’t freak out. Stop freaking out.”

Jamarcus Corks is an ever present in the locker room and says he is considered part of the team. However, it’s not all locker room banter. Sometimes, his job includes picking yp the trash in the dugout.

Jamarcus Corks is an ever present in the locker room and says he is considered part of the team. However, it’s not all locker room banter. Sometimes, his job includes picking yp the trash in the dugout.

Jamarcus says he uses every ounce of strength he has to do everything he can each day.

“I hate having spare time,” he says. “Everyone needs an off day, but having spare time where I could be doing something productive with it is something I can’t even handle.”

Being the football and baseball manager helps him manage his own needs.

“I do this because if I’m not doing it, I’m wasting my time and not doing what I could be doing,” he says. “There is no other way I would imagine my life right now. I’m able to be a part of these teams, to say all these great things, and to be so happy with my life right now.”

Being a manager means being part of the team, and being part of a team means being part of a brotherhood, Jamarcus says.

“On a field, it doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white, Hispanic, Mexican, whatever — you’re just a brother,” he says. “The love we all share with each other is completely mind-boggling to me. I have never known such a thing.”

Being so involved with the players and sports over the years has helped mold Jamarcus into who he is now, he says.

“Being around them actually caused me to absorb some of their traits, such as being who I am and saying what’s on my mind, not caring what people think, doing my own thing, regardless of the wheelchair or the walker,” he says. “After a while they stopped seeing it. They were blind to it.”

If one sees Jamarcus around campus, he seems calm and collected. But when he gets around the coaches and players, he changes, he says.

“You can’t be a dainty little flower,” he said. “I mean, I can’t even be like that and I’m one of the nicest guys people meet. People think I’m the sweetest, most innocent, defenseless thing on the planet, but those guys could tell you, ‘He is not defenseless, he is not sweet, and he is not fragile. He is as tough has any of us.’”

When Jamarcus is on the sidelines, he is competitive and is not immune to giving out a little stick with some humor.

“I’m hysterical, because I will talk as much crap to the umpires as anyone else,” he says. “At football games, I’m a completely different person because I will talk smack to a crowd that talks smack to us.”

Jamarcus says interactions with the players has also changed his perspective on life.

jemarcus4“I don’t take things near as seriously as I used to,” he says. “The baseball team would take my walker and put it in centerfield, in the middle of the field, and I’d have to walk over to it. I’d have to get it or they’d put it in the outfield, which is toward the back. I mean that was what really kinda calmed me down a little bit. Sports really have changed my entire outlook, my entire being.”

Jamarcus says he had always dreamed of being an athlete, and his involvement with Lamar sports has fulfilled that.

“It’s not only a dream — it was also a gift,” he says. “I want to be running those bases, knocking people off the plate.”

The players consider Jamarcus as one of them, he says.

“They don’t see me as any different,” he says. “They wish with all their heart like, ‘Give him a set of pads, give him a jersey, give him pants, suit him up with the rest of us, ’cause he is one of us. He is ours.’ They don’t even see me as a manager. They see me as a player.”

The coaches also see Jamarcus as a team player. He says he is especially close to head football coach Ray Woodard.

“He messes with me to no end, and he is the only coach I have ever had that talks to me as though I was one of his players — but at the same time, he treats me as one of his own children,” Jamarcus says.

Jamarcus’ relationship with Woodard is special, he says.

“I’m glad to have that in my life, especially right now, not having my mom, not having my dad,” he says. “My mom passed away, and my dad is not really able to take care of himself, much less me. Coach knows about my entire life, my entire history, and the fact that he does that is very nice.”

Jamarcus plans on staying in the sports arena, hopefully as a radio announcer, and wants to give back to the sports that have given his life such meaning.

“The love for the game holds everyone together,” he says.

Story by

Danielle Sonnier

Photos by

Josh Aych

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

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