MENTOR - The University of Toledo football team held an open practice at Mentor High School in Mentor, OH on Friday night. It was a chance to honor former Rocket Ben Pike, a Mentor H.S. graduate who has opted to forgo his final season of football at UT.
Instead, Pike will join his fiancee, former UT women's basketball player Ashlee Barrett, in St. Louis. Barrett has been battling leukemia for nearly a year now. The two are planning a wedding on June 15.
Pike said he was touched by the turnout, estimated at around 400-500, at the practice in support of Ashlee. UT officials took donations for Ashlee at the game and all proceeds from concession sales were also donated.
"I was blown away by the turnout tonight," said Pike. "I didn't know what to expect. I was just happy the team was coming here. I'm very humbled by it."
Toledo head coach Matt Campbell said he was happy the team could help out Ben and Ashlee.
"It was a great way to pay tribute to two outstanding student-athletes from our university who have been great role models to our football team and all UT student-athletes," said Campbell. "We also got in a great practice so it couldn't have gone any better. There was a great turnout tonight. You can tell how much Ben means to the community here in Mentor and to the community at the University of Toledo."
Pike, who will graduate from UT later this month with a degree in education, was with Ashlee on Thursday as she underwent a stem-cell transplant procedure. He flew from St. Louis to Cleveland late Thursday night, then joined his former teammates at his old high school on Friday.
"Ashlee's doing very well," said Pike. "Actually, the doctor who performed the procedure was a UTMC graduate. Everything went well. Ashlee is resting now. It's a long road to recovery so we're taking it day by day."