Chattanooga Mocs offensive lineman Cole Strange was selected by the New England Patriots with the 29th pick of the NFL Draft’s first round. It’s been an amazing journey for the Knoxville native who came into the program in 2016.
It all started with a phone call.
“I got this call from a random number,” he began. “It’s the New England Patriots congratulating me on being their first-round draft pick. It’s just a dream come true.
“I knew it could happen and had a feeling that I would hear from someone last night. It’s exciting to go to an organization like the Patriots. I’m just ready to get to work.”
Coach Rusty Wright was quick with his assessment on the pick.
“Very deserving,” the 4th-year head coach noted. “He can play all three interior spots – right guard, left guard & center. That’s an invaluable guy to a football team, and he’s a big guy that can run and is aggressive.”
Six years, three head coaches and a position change. He signed with Russ Huesman’s staff, Wright as an assistant coach, in 2016. He came to the Scenic City as a TE/DE, but the switch to o-line was in the cards eventually after redshirting in 2016.
Then came Tom Arth’s staff and Strange immediately moved to offensive line eventually earning a starting spot in 2017 at guard. At 255 lbs. Questions? He was tabbed freshman All-America in the end, so his enormous potential took flight.
Wright came back as head coach in 2019, and the “boy” had become a man. His 2018 performance against South Carolina started turning heads, but it was his next three years that cemented a trip to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, NFL Combine and today’s first-class ticket to Boston from Knoxvegas.
“Here’s a guy who stayed the course for his entire career,” Wright added. “He never wavered about where he was at. He’s where he is today because he played for five years, there’s a lot of film on him and he put himself in this position.”
Strange is now the seventh Moc currently in the NFL based on last season’s rosters. He’s also quick to note the path is there for future Mocs.
“You can get here from anywhere,” Strange noted. “Just keep working on your craft whether that’s blocking, tackling, running, catching passes or throwing. On the practice field, in the film room, in the weight room and just utilizing all the support we get from sports medicine keeping our bodies right.
“Chattanooga has so much to offer, and I’m very appreciative of the opportunities the program provided me to be where I am today. It’s not a surprise to me at all. It’s what hard work is all about.”
- 47th Chattanooga student-athlete drafted.
- Earliest pick by round in school history topping Hall of Famer Terrell Owens (3rd/28th pick) to San Francisco in 1996.
- Earliest pick by overall selection besting the 56th pick of the 1948 edition which was Ralph Hutchinson, also an offensive lineman, to the N.Y. Giants with the first pick of the eighth round.
- Earliest pick from a SoCon school since 1974 when Richmond RB Barty Smith was pick No. 12 by Green Bay.
- One of seven Mocs in the NFL & 10 playing professionally currently…
NFL: C.J. Board, WR, N.Y. Giants; Tae Davis, LB, Houston; Corey Levin, OL, Tennessee; Isaiah Mack, DL, Baltimore; Kareem Orr, DB, L.A. Rams (Super Bowl Champ) & Buster Skrine, DB, Tennessee
USFL: Dale Warren, LB, Pittsburgh
IFL: Alejandro Bennifield, QB, Massachusetts; Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, RB, San Diego; Vantrel McMillian, DL, Massachusetts