Cook: Winner was King Kong
High school football in this part of the country is considered more than just a game.
It is a sacred thing that people hold dear to their hearts and take seriously.
Many legends and stories have passed through the halls of T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal high schools.
One of these beloved stories is the story of a rivalry.
This rivalry comes in the form of these two schools battling it out year after year for the title of the best.
It’s a test between two gladiator teams and the stadiums of these two high schools are their coliseums.
This story goes back years and the people who played in these games have paved the way for what is the current story for W.S. Neal and T.R. Miller football programs.
It is important to understand and hear the stories of some of these previous players to better understand and appreciate the game and this legendary rivalry that has helped shape our area and town.
One of these players that helped pave the way was Billy Earl Cook.
Many know Cook as an attorney in the Brewton area today.
Cook is a native to the Brewton area and attended junior high at Damascus.
Damascus j.r. high was located in 1958, in the northeast party of the county off of Hwy. 29.
It has long since disappeared and is now just a story.
In 1957, Cook started 10th grade at W.S. Neal.
Cook became one of the members that year’s football team.
“I was a defensive back and I didn’t get to play much that first year,” Cook said.
In those days, the equipment was different from the equipment that players use today.
The helmets were either open without a facemask or had one single bar and shoulder pads were heavy and bulky leather pads.
The pants would have a liner underneath with your pads and the outside uniform pants would slide over those.
Concussion protocol was non-existent and it was hardcore, hard-hitting football.
In 1958, his 11th grade year at W.S. Neal, Cook began to see more playing time.
“I ran the ball a few times that year as a running back but was mostly playing defense,” Cook said.
Cook also was able to recall the rivalry between the two schools and what it was like in those days.
“When you played T.R. Miller it was always the last game of the season. No other game mattered all season. It was battle between the creeks and the one who won that game was King Kong,” Cook recalled.
That season during the game against T.R. Miller, Cook was injured.
“I recall I was going in to make a tackle and my foot planted wrong. I twisted my knee inside,” Cook said.
1959, marked Cook’s senior year at W.S. Neal.
With the injury, he sustained at the hands of T.R. Miller in the final game of the 1958 season, Cook had to have his knee wrapped before every game and practice and also iced.
“I remember having to have my knee taken care of constantly. The injury was pretty severe but I made do. I would run bleachers to build my leg back up. I should have quit but my girlfriend was a cheerleader and that wasn’t happening. It was my last year and that wasn’t going to stop me from playing ball,” Cook said.
“I loved my time at Neal. I eventually married my high school sweetheart and we had five boys. We have been married now for 57 years. I would call that a great year,” Cook said.
Upon graduating from Neal, Cook would join the United States Marine Corps.
At the time, his knee was one inch shorter than the other due to the injury he sustained from football.
He had surgery on his knee and continued his path with the Marines.
He found his way to Parris Island, S.C. and would become part of a Marine Corps recon unit based in Mobile.
During this same time, he joined the Brewton Police Department as an officer.
As a police officer, Cook was on duty one night to work the Miller and Neal game.
“I remember that night well. I was on duty and was at the old wooden football stadium located down a little from where the modern field is now. That night the stadium was packed. There were people everywhere. People were standing on the fence, the bleachers were filled, people were everywhere. There were people standing in a tree that they had climbed up and suddenly it began to rain and lighting,” Cook said.
“In this day, they would have stopped the game but it was a huge game. Everyone had come out to see the Fountains play, so they kept the game going. Lighting struck and knocked everyone in that tree to the ground. It was perhaps one of the funniest and greatest games between Miller and Neal that has ever taken place. The ball was rarely over any one of the forty yard markers. Neal lost that game 3-4,” Cook said.
After eight years with the Brewton Police Department and service with the Marine Corps, Cook decided to attend college and take the avenue as an attorney, a position which he still holds to this day.