BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden is heading home to help his cherished Oklahoma heal.
Weeden will return to his home state over the holiday weekend to assist in any way he can in the aftermath of the deadly tornado that tore through Moore, Okla., killing 24 people and destroying more than a thousand homes in the Oklahoma City suburb earlier this week.
Weeden has been in contact with Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and he plans to pitch in and contribute anyway possible.
“I’ll do anything, whether it’s getting in the rubble and doing whatever, it doesn’t matter,” said Weeden, who is from Edmond. “I’ll be there to help.”
The disaster touched Weeden’s family. His wife, Melanie, is from Moore, and her mother and brother still live in the city, which has been hit by four tornadoes since 1998. Although they escaped injury from the latest monster twister, which had winds clocked at over 200 mph, their homes sustained some damage.
“It actually went right through my wife’s hometown,” Weeden said following Thursday’s practice. “Fourth Street, the path they keep talking about, my mother-in-law lives on Main, which is four blocks north of it, and my brother-in-law lives two blocks south of it. It went right over the top of them. Very, very fortunate to have no injuries and everybody’s safe.”
Weeden, who starred at Oklahoma State, said there were some frantic moments for he and his wife when they couldn’t contact family as the tornado took aim at Moore.
“There’s a park, literally there’s two blocks between my brother-in-law and my mother-in-law,” he said. “They said, `If you’re at that park, get out of the way.’ It was destroyed. Once we heard it was destroyed, obviously there’s no cellphone service. We couldn’t get hold of them for about an hour. So my wife’s panicked and we’re panicked. It was tough being so far away.”
Weeden said family members were able to take cover in time.
“My brother-in-law got in the car and drove away from it,” he said. “My mother-in-law works in the administration building for Moore Public Schools, so she was in a basement, fortunately. Very, very blessed, we got lucky. But being up here, seeing my wife, she was rattled and it was very tough.”
Authorities believe about 33,000 people were affected by the tornado, and monetary damage is estimated to be around $2 billion.
Weeden was 14 in 1998 when Moore was hit by a tornado referred to as the “May 3 tornado,” which had 300 mph winds and killed more than 40 people. While folks living in Tornado Alley are accustomed to the fierce storms, nothing could prepare them for a colossal tornado like the one that struck this week.
“Unfortunately living in that part of the country, it’s just what you deal with,” Weeden said. “You hope they’re never as big as they were. That’s a big-time tornado. We’ve been fortunate, we’ve only had a few of those since I’ve been around. They’re tough. My best wishes go to every family involved. I hope everybody recovers and all well comes out of it.”
Browns wide receiver Josh Cooper, too, was affected by the tornado.
His father, Mike, works as a construction manager in Moore and was forced into an underground shelter. Cooper, who is from Mustang, Okla., said he felt helpless as he watched TV coverage of the disaster.
“It was really tough,” said Cooper, a college teammate of Weeden’s. “My heart was hurtin’ pretty good that day. I was checking in with my family and friends and hoping they were safe.”
Cooper said no one he knew was seriously injured.
Oklahomans are tough, and Cooper is sure they will emerge from the disaster — together.
“Everybody is kind of helping everybody,” he said. “We’ll be fine. We get through things like this all the time. Oklahoma strong, you know?”
Cooper plans to be in Oklahoma in the coming weeks to lend a hand to in the relief effort. Meanwhile, he’s been impressed by the kindness shown by many, including Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant, who pledged $1 million for tornado relief through his foundation.
“What a great guy,” Cooper said. “That’s pretty cool to see. I saw the picture with his jersey hanging from stuff out there. Props to him, that’s a great thing he’s doing.”