Despite being out of football for all of last year, Perrish Cox watched most of the San Francisco 49ers' 2011 season.
In between the time he spent handling personal legal issues, the former fifth-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in the 2010 NFL Draft routinely had his television set to 49ers games.
It was for good reason.
Cox wanted to keep tabs on former Oklahoma State teammate Kendall Hunter, San Francisco's fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Besides staying in shape for another chance in the NFL, Cox intently watched his close friend stick his nose into improbable holes only to see the 5-foot-7 runner come out the other side unscathed. Cox saw Hunter rush for just about every one of his 473 yards as a rookie, too.
The two were tight during their time in Stillwater, Okla., where they played two seasons together on competitive Cowboys teams.
"Great dude," Cox said of the young 49ers running back. "We hang together now like we did at O-State. He's a great player. He's shorter than everybody, but other than that, he's got a big heart."
Cox relied heavily on Hunter and his big heart during his first weeks in the Bay Area. The young running back served as Cox's tour guide of sorts, even chauffeuring his elder teammate to and from the 49ers facility.
Hunter sees the 49ers close-knit locker room being very much like what two players enjoyed in college.
"Back at Oklahoma State everybody hung out after the game. We'd always be together; it was a team thing, no matter what," Hunter said. "I think it's a good thing he's here because this team is close with each other. It's like how it was for us in college.
"With good people around, you can't do anything but succeed."
But it wasn't only Hunter who welcomed the 25-year-old defensive back, it was the entire team.
"They welcomed me in with open arms," said Cox after a recent Football School training session at 49ers headquarters. "I'm just thankful to be here personally to have another chance to do what I love doing."
So far, the 6-foot, 198-pound cornerback has looked to be every bit of an athlete as his fellow defensive backs.
It's not so much of a surprise when you examine the early production in his NFL career. Cox started in nine games for the Broncos where he totaled 54 tackles and led all rookies with 14 pass break ups.
That production, along with a renewed vigor for the game, represent some of the biggest reasons why the 49ers brought Cox in on a one-year contract prior to free agency. It certainly didn't hurt that 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell coached him back in Denver in the same capacity.
In the same way Cox has enjoyed seeing Hunter on a daily basis, he's appreciated being around "Coach Ed."
"He's been great to me," Cox explained. "I had a great relationship with him in Denver and it's the same now. He's still the same, never changed."
Donatell's just one of many coaches the new 49ers defensive back is bonding with this offseason.
The head man himself has built a great relationship with Cox in the early stages of them working together.
"Coach Harbaugh is a friend, a coach, and someone you can go to talk to about anything," Cox said. "I had a meeting with him and it wasn't really anything about football, it was about personal things. We joked around a lot."
On the field, Cox feels like he's picking up where he left off, as a starter opposite of future Broncos Hall of Famer Champ Bailey.
"I feel very confident," Cox said. "The grind didn't stop, I was always grinding for that day I'd come back in the NFL. And now that I have a chance to do it again, I have so much in me built up. I have to show the world, show all the people what type of person that I really am. I just feel energized."
It doesn't hurt that Cox signed with one of the best defenses in the league. Knowing that he's competing with a top-ranked unit makes it even easier.
"Watching them on TV, to see what they were doing on the field last year and to be a part of it the very next year, you're even more motivated to go out and try and play with those guys," said Cox, who's enjoyed getting to see the humble nature of defensive leaders Joe Staley, Justin Smith and NaVorro Bowman in person.
"Those guys, they come off as down to earth people, regular people, like brothers," Cox elaborated. "They're just like everybody else. Hard-workers, they have a great attitude about everything."
With a new chance to shine on the 49ers' hard-working defense, Cox is not letting the opportunity slip by the wayside.