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Bauer drove Cox to the surrounding affluent white suburbs and persuaded him to apply for jobs. "Bryan once had the bus stop on the way back from a high school baseball game so that he could phone and tell Taco Bell that he'd be late to work," Bauer says proudly.
Cox was also lucky to have had the guidance of stepfather Williams, especially after the imprisonment of Ronald Cox in 1990 for dealing drugs. Ronald had remarried, but he and Bryan had stayed in touch. "I felt betrayed," Cox says. "He was the one who taught me right from wrong. I was deeply hurt."
Bryan visited his father only once during his 11 months in prison, but he was standing at the front gate to pick Ronald up the day he was paroled. Bryan, by this time a starter with the Dolphins, gave Ronald some money from his rookie salary of $95,000 and promised to help him buy a small restaurant. But by Christmas 1991, Bryan learned that his father was selling drugs again. After a bitter argument the two stopped speaking. Four months later Ronald died of a heart attack.
"I can't imagine preying on someone else's dependency to make money," says Bryan, "but if it meant keeping my family from starving, I'd do it in a heartbeat."
These days Cox is making sure that his family never has to confront that choice. He has set up his stepfather, brothers and brother-in-law in an East St. Louis tow truck business called All-Star Towing. Cox is also planning to buy a beauty salon for his 24-year-old sister, Pamela. Cox and his wife, LaTonia, live in Fort Lauderdale with their daughter, Brittani, 1, and LaTonia's daughter, LaVonda, 9, and Cox would like to add 7-year-old Chiquita, his daughter by a high school girlfriend, to the home. Chiquita now lives with her mother in Last St. Louis.
Prominently displayed in the rec room of the Coxes' house is a card his father made for him in prison. On the card's front is a drawing of a smiling Dolphin. Inside, Ronald wrote this:
You paid your dues and made it to the top