Friends and family members will always remember Dom Cooks as a winner whose inspiration will live on in the halls of Federal Way’s Decatur High School, and beyond.

Cooks, once an up-and-coming athlete, died late Tuesday night at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way after a two-year fight against a cancerous brain tumor.

He was 18.

A candlelight vigil outside of Decatur on Wednesday night drew nearly 200 supporters who gathered in the rain to remember and honor him, according to principal David Brower.

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One student spoke about the courage Cooks showed and his refusal to give up.

“You know, the news got it wrong,” the student said of television reports. “The news said Dom Cooks lost his battle with cancer. But he didn’t lose it. He beat it. He left this world strong and this world better and cancer didn’t beat him. He inspired us.”

Brower seconded that notion Thursday.

“He truly has inspired more people in his 18 short years than most people do in four times that long,” he said.

Cooks, who was a starting defensive lineman on the Decatur football team as a sophomore in 2011 and a promising basketball player, had been in declining health since early in the school year.

But his spirit and popularity never faded among students, teachers, coaches and administrators.

Together, they helped him live out his dream of donning football pads one last time and scoring a touchdown — which he accomplished at halftime of the Gators’ homecoming game against Auburn Mountainview, complete with spin moves and a touchdown dance.

Cooks was then crowned homecoming king.

In late February, he received his high-school diploma with twin sister Diamond in a special commencement ceremony witnessed by 1,500 people, according to Brower, including Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin.

Cooks continued to come to school when physically able and give his traditional quote of the day during morning announcements. He once told Brower one of his biggest blessings was his tumor, because “it teaches me that tomorrow’s not a promise, and I need to embrace every day.”

He maintained his humor and optimism even while hospitalized last week, telling Brower he was going to be playing basketball this summer. He lost consciousness Sunday and had his twin by his side when he passed away Tuesday, Brower said. Earlier that day, Cooks finished third in a USA Today national contest featuring inspirational athletes.

Decatur juniors were scheduled to take the SAT on Wednesday, but Brower postponed the test until April 30.

Many students paid tribute by putting painted handprints and messages on a “Legacy Wall” that featured the school’s ASB officers — including Cooks, officially Decatur’s “Spirit Ambassador.”

Brower said the school has made extra counselors and teachers available for grieving students and that he expects there to be a public memorial, although the family has yet to announce any details.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512

or sringer@seattletimes.com