Zachary Cardoso was sitting in the barber’s chair when he got the message. He rushed home, grabbed his camera and gear and hit the road. His dinner plans, a family party at an aunt’s house, were quickly canceled.
“I can’t do that,” Cardoso said. “I’m going to hang out with Brandin Cooks.”
An hour later, Cardoso and Cooks were chasing the sunset around the city of Vancouver. The 24-year-old wide receiver and the 24-year-old Canadian superfan share a passion for the Patriots, of course, but also for photography.
Cardoso’s brush with fame began when Cooks sent out an Instagram callout, asking, “Where are my Canadian photographers at?”
Cardoso messaged him immediately. No response. Cooks sent out another callout about an hour later. Cardoso didn’t want to be annoying, but he figured it was worth a shot and DM’d him again. This time, the Patriots star answered.
“Hey, what’s up man?” Cooks wrote.
The pair hit it off. Within the hour, Cardoso was on his way west from his home in Abbotsford, British Columbia to Vancouver. He picked Cooks up at his hotel and brought him to Cardoso’s favorite spots around the city—Lions Gate Bridge, English Bay as the sun set, BC Place all lit up.
Cardoso said he tried to be more of a friend than a fan, even though he was hanging out with someone he’d watched in the Super Bowl two weeks before.
“I tried to avoid asking him about Brady or Belichick,” Cardoso said. “We just talked back and forth about our lives. He asked me where I grew up, did I play any sports, where I work.”
But while Cardoso didn’t gain any insights into Gronk’s future or trouble brewing at the top in Foxborough, he did get to see an NFL star in the flesh and find out they’re not so different after all. Cardoso and Cooks were walking near English Bay when the path started to slope.
“He turns around and starts going down the hill backwards,” Cardoso said. “I’m like, ‘what’s that all about?’ He’s like, ‘I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I just walk up and down hills backwards.’ So he walked backwards up the hill and he walked backwards down the hill. He was just a regular dude. It was wild.”
They each used their own equipment to capture the Northwest landscape. Cardoso shot with his Nikon D3200, while the wide receiver used a Leica M10. The M10 is an entirely manual camera with no automatic settings, so Cooks had to manage everything from ISO to shutter speed to the lens. Cooks told Cardoso that when he bought it, the salesman warned him the M10 would be a tough camera to learn photography on. But the Patriots wideout, who caught 62 passes for 1,082 yards this season, was up for the challenge.
At the end of the night, they walked back to the car and found a parking ticket sitting pretty on the windshield. When Cardoso dropped Cooks off back at his hotel, the Patriots star gave him $100 for gas and the ticket.
“It was wicked. He’s a super cool dude, super down-to-earth, just a genuine, nice dude,” Cardoso said.
How does a Canadian end up such a big Patriots fan? You can thank Tim Thomas and the Sedin twins for that one. After the Bruins beat the Canucks in 2011, Cardoso figured, ‘alright, they’re never going to win the Stanley Cup’ and decided to focus on the Patriots.
His father was a football fan and introduced him to the game when he was a kid. Cardoso hasn’t missed a Patriots game since 2010, and even made the 3,000 mile trip to Gillette Stadium in 2013 to watch Tom Brady take on Peyton Manning’s Broncos.
He said he’ll feel an even greater attachment to the team now that he knows one of the personalities underneath the helmet. Cardoso tracked Cooks’ career in New Orleans before the Patriots traded their first-round and third-round draft picks to the Saints for the California native last offseason. Cooks is ‘the first fast receiver we’ve had since Randy Moss’, Cardoso said, and now the former track standout follows him on Instagram.
“You think of these people as untouchable-they’re there and you’re here and your paths are never going to cross,” Cardoso said. “But seeing him out in public, he’s an NFL player walking past people who have no idea who he is. They’re not that different. They’re just regular people who are successful at a certain thing that they do.”
Cooks has certainly been successful on the field in New England, and he’s adding another skill to his resume.