He won't be in uniform or on a roster, but Christian Cox will be with the New England Patriots at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis this weekend.
Cox, a former defensive end at the University of Utah, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Patriots last August, but ended up on injured reserve after one preseason game.
Despite the challenges he's faced, Cox is grateful for two things — how the organization has looked out for him and the experiences he gained this season.
"What's neat about this organization, even with the injury, I was still treated so well. Not like a piece of meat, but actually like a human," Cox said. "If they re-sign me, I would love it. There is not a better situation to be in than to play for the Super Bowl champs, because we will definitely win."
The 26-year-old Cox is a former Bountiful High standout who was lightly recruited out of high school and played at Southern Utah for a year before serving an LDS mission to Brazil. When he returned, Cox walked on at the University of Utah and not only earned a scholarship, but became a team captain and earned all-conference honors.
Even so, his name wasn't called during the 2011 NFL draft and Cox was forced to wait patiently for the lockout to end before he could talk with a team.
Finally in August, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end signed with the Patriots and moved to Boston.
During fall camp, Cox was impressed to see head coach Bill Belichick treated the undrafted free agents as well as the high draft picks. Not only did Belichick know his football, but he called players by their first name. Belichick also coached Cox individually on multiple occasions.
"He's not the person you see portrayed in the media," Cox said. "He makes you feel of worth. He cares individually for each player."
Cox only wore No. 47 for about a month. In New England's first preseason game with Jacksonville, the rookie was running down the field when he was blindsided with a helmet-to-helmet hit after the whistle.
Bulging discs in his neck resulted in Cox having a discectomy, the same surgical procedure that kept Peyton Manning out this season. Eventually, the Patriots placed Cox on injured reserve (IR), which meant the blond-haired Mormon could remain with the team while he recovered from his injury. He says he feels healthy now and is preparing for next season.
During the season, Cox had memorable encounters with Tom Brady and team owner Robert Kraft. One day in an elevator, Cox mentioned to Brady he served a mission in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the same area where Brady's in-laws live.
"Yeah, it's great down there," Brady said. "How's your Portuguese?"
The brief conversation ended with a word about the World Cup as the elevator doors opened.
On another day following a workout, Kraft pulled Cox aside and confirmed he was from Utah, that he was a Mormon and that he served a mission.
"So who are you pulling for, Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman?" Kraft asked.
"For Mitt, of course," Cox replied, "He's a Boston guy."
In similar fashion, many religious questions have been asked in the locker room, Cox said. "I've taught a lot of first discussions, not preaching, it was just people inquiring about information," he said. "You can talk about it (the gospel) in a normal way."
What Cox looks forward to the most this weekend is spending time with his father, Jared, who will accompany him to Indiana.
"He's my biggest fan and supporter, a great man," Cox said. "I don't think there is a more rewarding way than to spend the Super Bowl with my father."
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