Kyle Cox has worn plenty of white medical coats the past few years. The one he put on Monday morning was the fashion statement of a lifetime.
"Lab coats, they're different," he said. "They're much less formal than this bad boy."
He gazed down at the lettering above the right breast pocket.
"University of Central Florida College of Medicine."
Cox had put on the bad boy a few minutes earlier during the annual White Coat Ceremony. In front of a packed ballroom at the UCF Student Union, 120 members of the Class of 2018 were given their first real physician's wardrobe.
"It's the symbol of the good doctor," said Deborah German, the medical school's founding dean.
Cox symbolized something more. He's the first UCF athlete to be accepted to UCF's medical school. He played soccer on nationally-ranked teams while getting almost straight A's in class, proving the phrase "student-athlete" is not an oxymoron.
"He's always had a lot of drive," said his father, Ken Cox. "He's always wanted to succeed."
Especially after being told he couldn't.
When Cox arrived at UCF from Dr. Phillips High, his guidance counselor advised him to give up soccer. It would devour the time he needed to study and do the extracurricular work required to get into medical school.
"He took that as a challenge," said his mother, Jamie Cox.
Her only child graduated last year with a 3.91 grade-point average in Molecular Biology and Microbiology. He applied to 15 medical schools. All of them turned him down.
It was like 15 cold slaps to his face. All Cox ever wanted to be in life was a doctor.
He'd volunteered at Florida Hospital, observing surgeries and then mopping the operating-room floor. Cox would get back to his dorm bursting with excitement, but his UCF roommates didn't share his enthusiasm.
"Would you stop talking?" they'd say. "We don't want to hear about the surgeries you've been watching."
Cox would go to soccer practice and find himself fixating more on the orthopedic functioning of his teammates' legs than scoring goals. Road trips routinely took him away from class, but friends would tape lectures and Cox would review them on his iPad late into the night.
Thursdays were the worst. There were classes all morning, soccer and weight training all afternoon, then a chemistry lab at night.
"There weren't any chairs," Cox laughed. "It was hard to keep standing sometimes."
The payoff would be acceptance to med school. When all he got was rejection, Cox asked about where he'd gone wrong.
The feedback made his guidance counselor seem prescient. Cox was told he needed more time at medical facilities. He devised a plan with UCF's Student-Athlete Leadership Institute.