Cojack Martinez moved from Fort Worth to Dublin when he was in eighth grade. In Fort Worth he had been a straight-A student and a player on his school’s baseball team, but things changed when he arrived in Dublin. Students and teachers had never met anyone like the new student from Fort Worth, and weren’t sure how to perceive him.
He was accused of being in gangs and causing trouble, and eventually dropped out. “Those were rough times,” he said.
Years later, though, things have turned around for Martinez. It’s been a long and eventful few years, but he’s now a happily-married father of three, a beloved little-league coach, and a proud member of the Dublin community.
After Martinez decided to drop out of Dublin High School, he spent a year working in roofing with some of his friends.
His reputation had affected him, and he started doing some of the things that people thought he did. “I thought, ‘If they’re going to drag me with that name and that title, then I’m just going to give them what they want,’” he said.
But his mindset changed later that year when he found out his girlfriend was pregnant. “If I wanted to raise my son and be able to tell him, ‘You better graduate,’ then I was going to have to graduate,” he said.
Martinez decided to go back to high school -- this time at the Dublin paradigm school -- to get his diploma. Once he graduated in 1998, Martinez started working at Appleton’s, an electrical company in Stephenville. His son was born in 1999.
To make more money to support his family, Martinez started working at a dairy in the area.
He and his girlfriend and their son had a house on the farm, and things were looking up. Soon, though, bad luck struck again. Martinez and his family were robbed, and then when his girlfriend and son moved to a new house, the house burned down.
One of his friends helped him out, but eventually Martinez and his girlfriend ended up splitting, and Martinez took his son to live with him.
Martinez wanted to be able to spend more time with his son, so he started looking for a job with more regular hours. He eventually started back at Appleton’s as a metal splitter. He also got married, and helped raise his stepdaughter, Mackenzie, as well as his son.
In 2004, when his son was five years old, Martinez coached his first season of little-league sports.
He coached baseball, soccer, basketball and football -- pretty much any team that needed a coach.
Some of his old reputation followed him, but as people got to know Martinez for who he really was, things began to change. One man started out hating Martinez -- but at the end of the season, he came up and thanked him.
“He said, ‘When you first picked up my son, I hated the fact that you were going to coach my kid -- but now, Cojack, I thank God every day that you’re coaching him,” Martinez said.
The change gave Martinez new energy. “It picked me up, it pumped me up,” he said. “It was an awesome feeling.”
Martinez never stopped coaching. “It was something I wanted to do,” he said. “It was something gave me a little bit of purpose, just teaching these kids how to do things, and watching them grow. I see kids that I’ve coached who now who have their own careers going, who are doing their own thing, who are married and having kids. That, to me, is awesome.”
Another place Martinez found purpose was through his faith. In 2014, Martinez’ kidneys failed (Martinez is a diabetic), and he was lying in his hospital room when he had an unexpected visitor: Ronnie Horton, the preacher at the Church for the Lost and Found in Dublin.
Martinez had never been to that church, but Horton’s kindness convinced him it might be worth it to go. From then on, God became part of Martinez’s life.
“When I walked into that church, no one judged,” he said. “Not one judgment, not one person looking at me weird, not a single whisper behind my back. People came, old ladies or men who didn’t even know me, and started giving me hugs telling me they were glad I came to their church. It was one of the best feelings ever.”
After that, Martinez kept going to church, and was baptized there.
After his kidney failure, though, things were looking pretty bleak -- the doctors said he probably wouldn’t live to be 40 years old. “I would be in dialysis for hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I was there for four hours a day,” he said.
Duringhislongtreatments, he and one of the nurses at the hospital, Alison Pratt, would talk and tell each other stories.
“Thisladykneweverything there is to know about me,” he said. She even helped him sign up for transplant waiting lists, although the lists were long, and he was pretty sure he’d be waiting for years.
Then in 2016, Martinez got a call that he was eligible for a kidney transplant.
Martinez couldn’t believe his luck -- but it was still pretty unlikely he would even be a match. His whole family showed up to the hospital that day as Martinez got his blood work done.
“We got there at seven, and we stayed at four waiting on the phone call,” he said. “At four o’clock in the morning, my phone rings, and I answered. Everyone wakes up from their dead sleep. People who had been sleeping on the floor and on the seats, woke up staring at me and I said, ‘Hello?’”
When Martinez put down the phone, he turned and faced all the people in the room waiting with bated breath; “She told me I was a perfect match,” he said.
Before he went into the eight-hour surgery, Martinez called Alison to tell her the good news, but she was at a family reunion and he didn’t think she would come visit him in the hospital.
So after the surgery, when he had woken up and was lying in bed with his family around him, he was surprised when she walked in.
“You don’t even understand the feeling I had when she walked in that room,” he said. “I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to marry this woman.’”
Less than a year later, they were walking down the aisle. “God knew I was supposed to meet her,” Martinez said. Martinez and his wife are now coming up on their third anniversary, and Martinez gained a new stepdaughter, Addison. “I was blessed double,” he said.
The couple moved into a four-bedroom house in Dublin with Martinez’s son, his step-daughter, and one of his nieces. They’ve now lived there for two years.
Although Martinez’s life in Dublin got off to a rough start, he says now he wouldn’t change a thing. Where he is now -- with his three children and wife -- is a product of all his experiences. “It’s a blessing,” he said. “I was not supposed to be 40 and now I’m enjoying everything. It’s been a ride.”
Editor’s Note: This column chronicles what Dublin graduates have done since high school. If you have any suggestions for other graduates, email firstname.lastname@example.org .