A big fan's legacy lives on at Chris Cooley's football camp

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 4, 2010; D08

Philip Post II will wear Redskins colors forever. His parents, Philip and Paula Post, made sure of that. After their 28-year-old son died in a car accident last June, they buried him in a Clinton Portis jersey, the only way, really, to honor his fun-loving spirit and passion for his favorite team.

A year later, they've found a way to honor his memory as well. At Chris Cooley's annual football camp this weekend, 17 at-risk kids will attend, their $200 entrance fees covered by a fund established in Philip's name.

"There's many wonderful places we could have sent the money. Cancer, diabetes -- there's so many charities," said Paula Post. "But it had to be true to his spirit. The way his eyes popped when I gave him tickets to the game is the way I'm picturing these kids' eyes popping when they see Chris Cooley at the camp."

Philip was driving to work on wet Hagerstown roads about 6:30 a.m. on June 12 when he lost control of his yellow 2002 Toyota MR2. His car spun into oncoming traffic, where it collided with a 1998 Dodge pickup truck. Philip was pronounced dead at the scene.

Amid the grief that followed, the Post family had a lot of decisions to make. Choosing clothes in which to bury their only son was perhaps the easiest. "I refused to put him in a suit," his mother said. "I was scared to tell the minister and my mother, but I said, 'No, he will wear Redskins. That's what he would want.' "

The family also sought and received the team's permission to use the Redskins logo on Philip's headstone, which is still being prepared.

At the funeral service, friends placed mini-helmets and Redskins trinkets among the flowers near Philip's coffin. Some handed checks to the family to defer funeral costs. Insurance, though, had already helped cover the expenses, and for many months the family wasn't certain what it should do with the money. Eventually, they realized the Redskins would be a natural conduit.

Born to parents and grandparents who cheered on the team, Philip's DNA was stained burgundy and gold. He was wearing Redskins clothing before he could walk. As he graduated from Middletown High School, attended Frederick Community College and landed an accounting job at AugustaWestland Inc., the Redskins were the one constant in his life. Nearly everything in his home, it seemed, was somehow stamped with his favorite team's logo: lamps, blankets, trash cans, candles, figurines. There were Cooley magnets on the refrigerator, a Portis Fathead on the wall and a closet full of jerseys.

"He just loved the Redskins," said Philip's sister, Jenni. "More than anybody I know. "

Even when Philip moved out on his own, he still returned to Middletown every weekend to watch games with his family. He'd have a laptop propped next to him to monitor his fantasy team, the Three N Outs. His phone buzzed constantly with score updates and a handheld video game nearby allowed him to tinker with the Madden video game during commercials.

Sundays just weren't the same last fall. Without fail, Paula would drive to the Zion Lutheran Cemetery in Middletown every Monday to recap the previous day's Redskins game for her son.

"I didn't have much good news every week, but I was there and I'd just tell him, 'Don't worry, we'll get 'em next week'," Paula said.

A family member made a donation in Philip's name to the Redskins Charitable Foundation, the team's nonprofit philanthropic arm, and it sparked a series of conversations between the team and the Post family. Paula began talking with B.J. Corriveau, the team's vice president of community and charitable programs, about what they could do with the money friends and family had given. They quickly settled on the 17 scholarships to Cooley's camp.

"We all knew he'd want something good to come from it," said Philip's sister, Jenni. "He spent his life trying to make other people happy. He did whatever it took to make other people smile."

Cooley's annual camp, where 300 kids age 7 to 14 learn football fundamentals, will feature a few new wrinkles this year. The Post family will attend Saturday to visit with the Redskins tight end and see the children who are participating in Philip's name.

"I just thought it was so cool. The Redskins were something they loved, their son loved," Cooley said. "It's my camp that they chose to do this for, and that makes it special to me. It's an honor, and it makes you want to do your best for everyone there. You know you have to make it special."

Cooley also will hand out the Philip Post II Teammate Award to the camper who exemplifies great teamwork throughout the two-day camp. The winner will receive a plaque and a photo with Cooley and the Post family.

Almost a year has passed and it's still difficult for Paula Post to talk about her son without crying. This Saturday won't be easy, nor will the following weekend, the one-year anniversary of Philip's accident.

But she'll show up at Fairfax High, studying each camper and searching for that 500-watt look that meeting a player such as Cooley would have brought to her son's eyes.

"He'll still be there," Paula said. "Right there with us."

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