Perrish Cox knows his latest chapter won't erase his others.
He doesn't want that.
Sure, playing in the Super Bowl will be a big deal for the San Francisco defensive back. Winning it would be even bigger.
But win or lose on Sunday, the past two years will remain a part of the former Oklahoma State star's life. He was charged with sexual assault, released by Denver, then acquitted of the charges after spending a year out of football.
Those days, as tough as they were for Cox, have prepared him to play on football's grandest stage.
“I'm a stronger person,” he said.
Fittingly, he had the date of his arrest and the date of his acquittal tattooed on the thick muscles atop his shoulders.
Dec. 10, 2010.
March 2, 2012.
“When I wake up in the morning,” he said, “I look at that and never forget where I was.”
Cox was near the end of his rookie year with the Broncos when police arrested him. A woman had accused him of raping her while she was passed out. She had become pregnant.
The next year was void of football practices and film sessions, filled rather with court appearances and lawyer meetings.
If convicted, he faced two years to life in prison.
It was the toughest time of Cox's life.
He wanted desperately to return to football, but it seemed so far away that he struggled to watch games on television. He couldn't allow himself to think that far ahead, to dream that dream again.
It was worse during the playoffs; his old team, the Broncos, made it in after a late-season rally and advanced to the divisional round.
“This day last year, I was preparing to go to court,” he said. “I wasn't really focused on football at the time. I was focused on getting everything done.”
What a difference a year makes.
Only a couple of weeks after his acquittal, Cox was signed by the Niners. He joined a team that had made it to the NFC Championship Game last season, but he was also coming onto a roster stacked with talent.
He knew it, too.
“I basically had to start over from scratch,” he said. “They basically had their team already set from last year.
“I was basically like an add-on.”
And he was happy to be.
Cox is thankful every day for the chance to be back in football, even though he plays nickelback and is used sparingly. He plays primarily against three- and four-receiver sets. That meant lots of snaps a couple weeks ago against Green Bay, for example, but in the Super Bowl against Baltimore, a more traditional offense, there are likely to be few plays for Cox.
You won't hear him complain.
“It's just a blessing to actually be there,” he said.
He gained that perspective from the adversity that he faced the past couple of years. He relishes the here and now. He refuses to be bitter about anything.
That means that everything is good these days.
“I'm great, I'm great, I'm great,” Cox said. “Can't complain.”
“That's my response to everything.”
He admits he's had constant pinch-me moments this past week. He'll be eating with teammates or getting treatment or doing the most mundane thing when it hits him that he's heading to the Super Bowl.
“We're really in the Super Bowl,” he'll say. “That's crazy.”
Cox knows that his spot in this game has probably resurrected talk about his legal troubles. He wishes that wasn't the case, but he realizes that it will forever be part of his story. He knows that it is part of who he is.
That's why he has no plan to rip out that chapter.
“Being from where I was last year, it just made me stronger in every phase,” Cox said. “Everybody's got a story that makes them stronger.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.
San Fran Connections to Oklahoma
Here's a look at the 49ers who have ties to our fair state:
Perrish Cox: The Niners cornerback was a star on defense and special teams at Oklahoma State from 2006-09, but his Cowboy career ended with a thud when he was suspended for the Cotton Bowl as a senior for missing curfew. Drafted by Denver, he spent one year with the Broncos before spending last season out of football with legal issues.
Kendall Hunter: The Niners running back was an All-American at OSU. From 2007-2010, he rushed for 4,181 yards and 37 touchdowns. In his second year in San Francisco, he was the No. 2 tailback, but since tearing his left Achilles in November, Hunter has been on injured reserve.
Jim Leavitt: The Niners linebackers coach was co-defensive coordinator with Bob Stoops for four seasons at Kansas State. Both left Manhattan after the 1995 season, Stoops to become defensive coordinator at Florida, Leavitt to take over as head coach of the new program at South Florida.
Brad Seely: The Niners special teams coach is a former Oklahoma State assistant. He was the offensive line coach from 1984-88 when his blockers cleared the way for Thurman Thomas or Barry Sanders or both all five years. This is Seely's fifth Super Bowl, his first four coming during a decade spent as New England's special teams coach.
Paul Wulff: The Niners senior offensive assistant is the former Washington State coach. He made his head coaching debut in 2008 vs. Oklahoma State.