His is an impassioned and somber message and Zeke Pike wanted to make sure it was fully delivered at Richlands High School.
Once projected as the number two high school quarterback in America, Pike ran afoul of drugs and the legal system before turning his life around. He visited all of the county schools Jan. 10-12 and his message was about choices.
“If you keep doing the same things you will get the same results. Show me your friends and I will show you your future were the two themes he dwelled on during the hour long presentation.
He told the students about starting to smoke marijuana when he was 13 because he wanted to be cool and continuing a pattern of partying with drugs and alcohol all the way through high school because he wanted to be liked. “You know how many of those people I was friends with in high school that I have been able to count on when I needed something, one he said and pointed to the back of the auditorium where his co-worker in Number 8 Ministries sat.
“People said Zeke has it made he’s football player, his family has money and they live in a big house. “They didn’t know my secret and I didn’t want anyone to. From the time I was 13 until I was 23 and sitting in a jail cell I never stopped drinking and using drugs,’ he said. Pike was living the “high life’ and getting away with it until he got to Auburn University.
He had dreamed of being a professional athlete since childhood and replacing Cam Newton at Auburn made it appear he was on the way. At 6’4”, 220 pounds and with the ability to run he had the physical qualities. He also had the pedigree as his father Mark Pike played 13 seasons in the NFL and made four trips to the Super Bowl.
“I graduated high school early and enrolled at Auburn. After spring practice Coach Gene Chizik told me I would be the starting quarterback in the fall. My dreams were coming true,’ Pike said. Before he ever took the first snap he was arrested for public intoxication and was gone from the Plains.
Louisville gave him a second chance and he failed a drug test early in his time there. Coach Charlie Strong told him he would be back on the team as soon as he passed a drug test but he would be a tight end rather than a quarterback. Pike said both he and his girlfriend Dani Cogswell, a cheerleader for the Cardinals like to party and he knew getting clean would not be easy.
“I said I will give up weed but I am not quitting the bottle.’ He soon replaced weed with Xanax and that led to a telephone pole splitting the car he and Cogswell were riding in and to his being charged with driving under the influence and suspended from the football team.
In the interim Strong left for Texas and Bobby Petrino decided not to keep Pike in the program. Out of football and being trashed in the media he started using Xanax and other drugs to the point he would blackout and be unable to function properly.
In 2014 his parents gave him a choice either go for drug treatment or they were done with him. After five months at Sober College he was doing so well he was allowed to go home for a week.
Two days before he was to head back to the treatment facility Cogswell died from a Heroin overdose. This prompted a relapse from which Pike almost didn’t recover. A third and final attempt at college football ended when he was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs and kicked off the team at Murray State. This was the point Mark and Sharon Pike cut him of financially and he begun to sell drugs and spiral into a world where he seldom left the house and his thoughts were of the opportunities he had blown and what a screw up he was.
“I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror,’ he told the students. That led to him taking the pistol he had bought because drug dealers had to have protection and planning to shoot himself. He asked God if he was out there to give him a sign.
Deciding he didn’t want his parents to find his body led Pike to start driving toward a wooded area where he planned to end it. “I was driving along thinking about what I was going to do and I looked in the mirror and that was one time I was glad to see blue lights.’
Pike pulled over and was soon told to take a deep breath because it would be awhile before he breathed fresh air again. The police found cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia in his truck they also found the gun which enhanced all the other charges.
Charged with four felonies and placed in isolation he awoke 48 hours later, having seizures and covered in his own feces. “They finally told me I could take a shower and I thought oh boy some Old Spice body wash and some Head and Shoulders I will be alright.
They took me to a room where there was no shower curtain and no handles for hot or cold water just a button to push. The guard told me Mr. Pike when you push that button the water comes on for 45 seconds. When it stopped I was given a towel, a striped suit and told I had one phone call. Sharon Pike’s response was not what he expected.
“She told me my father didn’t want to talk to me and I got myself in there I could get myself out.’ Unable to make bond Pike spent the next six months locked up with child molesters and murderers. His attorney told him there was a real possibility he would get 15 years to serve.
Pike made his peace with God and his family while in detention and after being given a reprieve by the court he started Number 8 Ministries. “8 turned sideways is the symbol for infinity 8 straight up is the symbol for a new beginning.
God made the world in seven days so on the eighth day everything begins again. When you have a chance for a new beginning take advantage of it and make the right choices,’ he concluded.