12/29/06

Hard Work Paying Off for Mit Cole

By Carey Meitzler

 

When LSU tees it up against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl on January 3, 2007, be sure to keep an eye on number 81.

Milton Ray Cole, III, who goes by “Mit”, will most likely get his third consecutive start for the Tigers. Cole knows the Tigers

must work hard to be ready for the Fighting Irish, but Cole is no stranger to hard work.

 

“This season has been an emotional roller coaster. I mean, there were times I could have felt sorry for myself,” said Cole.

“But, I kept telling myself ‘what if' and I think having that attitude of being ready to play at anytime has given me this chance.

I just kept working my tail off and now it's paid off.”

 

This season, Cole, a junior tight end, figured to be a major contributor for LSU.

“I've got to play a lot. Early on, I was playing as much as I thought I would, but I knew coming in this year I would contribute

a lot more. I got to start at Ole Miss and Arkansas.  It was real exciting.”

 

Even though he was not listed as the starter earlier this season, Cole's approach never wavered.

 

“I prepare every week like I will play, because in reality, you are just one play away from playing when you are not starting.”

 

Cole's father Milton Ray Cole, II, who goes by Hoppy, was a standout at Pascagoula High School and went on to be a three year

letter winner at Ole Miss in the '80, '81, and '82 seasons. Hoppy's dad was the voice of the Panthers' during his high school playing

days.

 

Mit, an Ellisville native, came to Picayune in 2003 due to his father Hoppy's job with The First Bank. Mit was a two way starter

at South Jones High School , but the Braves were not considered in the upper echelon of south Mississippi high football teams.

Coming to play at Picayune was a boost for Mit.

 

“I went from a program that was not known for being very good to a very good program,” stated Cole.

 

That 2003 Picayune team played in the South State Championship game losing to Oak Grove. Cole fondly recalls that season.

“In 2003, we had a very talented team, probably at the time, the most talented team I had ever been around or seen in high

school football. We had a tough schedule and we had a great year and it was probably the most fun I've ever had playing football.”

 

When Cole arrived at Picayune, he was already being heavily recruited and his stock rose even more. He was on The Clarion

Ledger's Top 25 most wanted and was named The Sun Herald's top player in South Mississippi . Mit committed early to LSU,

but the Ole Miss Rebels held out hope that he would follow in his dad's footsteps and come to Oxford .

 

“I was already committed during the season which really helped out. I didn't have to worry about anything and could concentrate

on my senior year at Picayune, so it (committing early) was a good thing for me,” said Cole.

 

“Since I committed early to LSU, everyone kind of backed off except for Ole Miss. I finally told Coach Cutcliffe that I was not

going to change my mind because I was a man of my word.”

Preparing for the Sugar Bowl, Mit recalled his early days at LSU.

“I remember my first game at LSU against Oregon State . We had a long rain delay before starting the game and we came back

to win in the final seconds. It was very electric. A lot of people didn't know that I had hurt my knee during camp (fall workouts)

and wasn't allowed to play even though I was suited up for the game.”

 

In the next two games, Cole got his first action for the purple and gold cladded Tigers.

 

“The next week I played the third and fourth quarter against Arkansas State . Then, I got to start on the kick off return team at

Auburn the next week. I'll tell you being out there with 85,000 people booing you was pretty unbelievable. I was looking around

out there thinking ‘Oh God, I hope they don't kick it to me.'”

 

                  

Being an LSU Tiger, a typical week can be quite hectic according to Cole. Here's what he shared.

“On Sundays we lift at 4:00pm and run at 5:00pm. We call it stretch and drive where we are focused on getting the soreness out.

We meet at 6:45am on Monday morning to review the film from the game we just played. We get out at 7:30am and go to our

classes. Practice starts at 2:00pm and lasts to about 6:00pm on Monday through Thursday. We also run and lift weights on

Mondays and Thursdays. Fridays are typically a travel day. On road trips, we are excused from classes and we meet in the

morning around 8:30am.  After the meeting, we usually head to the airport around noon. Once we get to the hotel, we eat and

go to the movies, and then meet when we get back from the movies. On Saturdays, we have meetings and a lot of time to just

sit around and relax and get ready for the game.”

If you are a freshman, the schedule is even more grueling.

“For freshman, they have mandatory study hall 7:00pm to 9:00pm every night from Sunday through Thursday. After your freshman

year, if your GPA is high enough, you can get out of it. Even still, you have to meet with your advisor to make sure you are on

schedule and meeting your requirements. You basically, don't have anytime off.”

 

Mit Cole endured that regiment to earn a spot on the SEC Academic Honor Roll.  Cole, a Finance major, is looking ahead as he

prepares for his life without football.

“I am going to take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) next summer and I may go to law school. I chose to be a Finance

major because I want to be in some kind of business, so I decided to get the degree (Finance) first.”

 

Cole has this little piece of advice for high school athletes with visions of playing a sport in college.

 

“You have to have the grades. It's the first thing. If you don't have the ACT or the GPA, they won't bother even talking to you.

There are plenty of athletes out there now that make it a risk for a college to take a chance on those who might not have the grades.

You have to set yourself apart with your grades.”

 

As kickoff for the Sugar Bowl approaches, Cole is excited once again to be playing in a bowl game.

“My freshmen season, we went to the Capital One Bowl down in Orlando and that was the best trip so far. We spent a week at

Disney World. Everything was great except for losing the game to Iowa on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the game.”

 

“Last year, we went to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and it was pretty good trip. It wasn't as good as going to Orlando because we

were coming off a loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship game and we kind of felt that we should have been going to the Sugar

Bowl. This year, we're real excited to be playing in a BCS game and playing Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. It's a great match up.”

 

Mit, who checks in at 6-4 and 255 pounds, thinks that his competition in practice has been a huge plus for him. He admits at times

he is in a little awe with the size and talent of guys around him.”

 

“Herman (Johnson, offensive lineman) is like 6-7 and 350 (pounds). He's huge. It's amazing how big and quick he is. On the other

side, we see some of the best players anywhere everyday. It makes you better when you can practice against the best defensive

ends in the nation. It has been an adjustment for me because in high school I was bigger than most of the guys that lined up against

me,” said Cole.

 

Mit Cole sums up his success with a little advice to those who want to achieve more.

“You can't control how much athletic ability you have or how big you might be, but take what you have, enhance, work hard,

and it'll pay off.”