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SALT LAKE CITY -- Coming from a hometown with a population smaller than the capacity of Rice-Eccles Stadium, University of Utah senior wide receiver Dexter Ransom finds himself on a stage that most of the people he grew up with can only dream about.
Ransom was raised by his mother, Maxine Cockrum, in the rural town of Sanguin, Texas. Although he had two older siblings — a brother, Thomas, and a sister, Annette — Ransom spent most of his childhood with just his mother, living together in a modest apartment.
“I grew up in one of those towns where everybody knows everyone else,” Ransom said. “My mom and I lived together in the same apartment my whole life. My brothers and sisters would occasionally come, but for the majority of the time it was just me and my mom.”
When Ransom was a young boy, he would spend time with his sister while she was attending a local college. As he got older, he began spending more time with his brother, who lived out in the country, where he could also see his nephew, who was the same age as Ransom.
“My brother and sister have played a big part in my life,” Ransom stated. “They have always been there for me. My sister graduated from college, so she can help me scholastically, while my brother is a social person who has helped teach me about the real world and what I need to do.”
When Ransom was not spending time with his siblings, he could often be found hanging out with friends at the local activity center or park, playing basketball or baseball. Like many boys in his community, Ransom aspired to play one day in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs.
I had been playing basketball and football all throughout high school. Once I was moved to wide receiver and discovered that I was better at football and could receive a scholarship, I shifted my focus from basketball to football.
“I have played sports my entire life, but when I was younger I loved basketball,” Ransom recalled. “I started playing basketball when I was really little, and then picked up baseball. When I was in eighth grade I started playing football, and my first year I was put on the ‘b team’ as a tight end and defensive end.”
Even after Ransom started playing football, his main focus was on basketball until his junior year of high school. That’s when the football coaches recognized Ransom’s athletic ability and moved him to wide receiver.
“I had been playing basketball and football all throughout high school. Once I was moved to wide receiver and discovered that I was better at football and could receive a scholarship, I shifted my focus from basketball to football,” Ransom explained.
After his senior season, Ransom committed to play football for Blinn College. Ransom made 36 receptions for 734 yards and earned first-team All-Southwest Conference honors as a freshman.
Entering his sophomore year, Ransom was ranked as the top junior college prospect in the nation by Rivals.com, but a knee injury sidelined him for the second half of the year.
“When I first hurt my knee, I didn’t know much about ACL injuries except for what I saw in the movie ‘Friday Night Lights.’ It was hard for me at first, but then I recovered faster than expected and realized I could get back and be even better. The hardest part was the mental factor of always worrying that if I cut hard, it would get hurt again. It took awhile, but I finally regained confidence in my knee,” Ransom explained.
Despite the injury, Ransom had already gained the attention of multiple NCAA Division l programs. He originally chose to play at the University of Arizona but changed his mind after visiting Utah’s campus and Salt Lake City.
“The people here were really nice,” Ransom said about that visit. “I really liked the atmosphere here and how people are willing to help you out. Everybody around here is willing to help you out, even if you are competing for the same position. On top of that, Coach (Morgan) Scalley, who recruited me, is a really nice guy who can bring a smile to your face even if you are mad. He was very welcoming and is fun to be around.”
In 2010, Ransom joined the Utes and appeared in eight games as a junior. His playing time increased over the course of the season. However, while things were going great for Ransom on the field, he had to deal with the toughest struggle of his life as his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
It was tough not being around her, because you never know what cancer can do. Things could go so wrong.
–Ransom on his mother's cancer diagnosis
“The doctors had removed a tumor, and while they were doing that they discovered she had cancer,” Ransom said. “It was tough not being around her, because you never know what cancer can do. Things could go so wrong, and the fact that I was up here and not around to check up on her and be around to help out was really hard for me.”
Despite his mother’s health weighing on his mind, Ransom remained in Utah throughout the school year and continued to progress through spring football practice. Once the spring semester concluded, Ransom returned home and received the best news for which he could have hoped.
“When I went home this past May, she was going in for chemotherapy, but once she was done the doctors said the cancer was gone. That was an emotional day for me, to see that smile on her face,” Ransom related. “My mom has been my hero. She is such a strong person, which has made me stronger. She has never changed and is still the sweet lady she’s always been, even as she overcomes her challenges.”
Several players elected to wear pink armbands and shoelaces during October, which is breast cancer awareness month; the movement especially impacted Ransom this year.
“The pink October movement is something special to me,” Ransom said. “I know many just think of it being for breast cancer, but I think of it as being for anybody with cancer — and that is a big thing for me. All cancer is bad, and I really think the cancer awareness movement is important.”
With his mother cancer-free, Ransom has shifted his focus back to school, football and raising his two-month-old son, Brayden. As a senior, Ransom has developed into a leader both on and off the field for the Utes.
Once his football career has concluded, Ransom aspires to return to Texas and use his sociology degree to help young kids and teenagers as a social worker.
Connor Malmberg is a Utah Athletics communications assistant.