COMMITMENT: Long journey home for Cole

If Michael Cole had verbally committed to Oregon State out of high school, he probably would have had to pinch himself, for surely he had just had a nightmare. It just wasn't going to happen. But Cole has gone through a lot since those days as a Lake Oswego Laker, and now a verbal commitment to the OSU Beavers feels as good as a trip back home.

"I'm not going to lie, our whole family are (Oregon) Ducks," Cole told after verbally committing to Mike Riley and the Oregon State Beavers on Wednesday. "But it's just one of those things that when it comes to it - business means business. Growing up I wanted everyone in-state to do well until they played each other. But I've been out of the state for a few years now, so that's when I stopped caring about being a Duck."

Ever since being a standout at Lake Oswego, Cole has had some big shoes to fill. His older brother Travis played quarterback at Minnesota and professionally in the arena league. But the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Cole found his own way to D1 football, one that saw him go to a prep school, a 1-AA college and a junior college. It makes for interesting reading.

Cole moved to offensive line during his senior year at Lake Oswego. "At first I was skeptical because I had played tight end my whole life, but I had to play behind (Oregon State's) Keith Robertson if I wanted to play tight end and they needed a left tackle," he said. "I told them I would try it out and three days later I told him I didn't want to play anywhere else."

The Lakers made it all the way to the state title game that season, but lost to Alex Brink (Washington State) and Sheldon. Because of academics, Cole decided to go to Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia instead of junior college. He played alongside such players like DeCody Fagg (Florida State), Darrell Blackman (NC State), Danny Ware (Georgia) and others. But it wasn't just the step up in football where Cole - who had gone from 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds in high school to 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds - had his eyes opened.

"It was definitely a culture shock," he said. "It's not just the south, it's the original south. You see people sitting on their porches in the middle of the day because they've got nothing better to do. The racism was pretty high, it was weird. But I liked it a lot too. Coming from Lake Oswego, it was good be around different ethnicities. It was a good experience for me.

"It (Hargrave) was good for me because of the discipline. I still use a lot of it today. I make my bed every day and clean my room because of it. There is stuff that still carries over."

UConn, Northern Arizona and Portland State offered Cole out of Hargrave, and Cole wanted to get back to the Northwest. He was more than eager to become a Viking, but he lasted just one year at PSU. "I was academically ineligible," he said. "Coming to college right away, I wasn't ready. I didn't set my mind to it the way I needed to. I had to get out of there."

Cole moved to Foothill College in California the summer of 2005. "My brother Travis played two years at Foothill, so my Dad knew the coaches, the area, he knew some of the teachers and he felt the most comfortable with me coming here than anything else," he said. And after his second year playing at Foothill this coming fall, he'll play at Oregon State with two years to play two.

The Beavers were lucky to stumble onto Cole. "The recruiting process for me was slow because once I signed with Portland State, of course everybody dropped off," he said. "When I came down here, Oregon State found out about it. Coach (Danny) Langsdorf was down here and saw I was here and that's when it all started. I think they were down here looking at another guy and our head coach said, 'Coach, this is Michael Cole', and they were like, 'Where did you come from?'"

That break led to a series of conversations that led to Cole accepting a scholarship offer. "The main reason I chose Oregon State is because I wanted to get home," Cole said. "I want to play at home where my family can come see me play. When my brother went to Minnesota, I got to see him play once in two years. That was a big part of the process. I liked talking to Coach (Mike) Cavanaugh, the offensive line coach. He's got me excited about being a Beaver. It's just good to be able to get home."

But Cole wasn't that dead-set on the Beavers at the start of the process, but it didn't take long for him to figure out what he wanted to do. "I told Oregon State at the beginning after they offered that I was going to wait until after the season to see what other offers I would get," he said. "But I didn't get a chance to get home over the summer because I had summer school. I haven't been home since Christmas and have been home only twice since this whole process started.

"I just started thinking about being closer to my sisters, being able to come home and have dinner with my Dad or see my dogs, and I can't do that if I went to a shool out of state. I've been back east and I've done my travelling and stuff and that's just too much. I just want to be able to jump in the car and be home in an hour."

Now that the decision is out of the way, it's up to Cole to get finished with his Associates degree as soon as possible. Could he be a possible mid-year transfer? "I have some classes I took at Portland State that I passed that are pending, but I have to see if they are eligible for junior college (credit)," Cole said. "I need to get that done this summer.

"When I talked with Coach Riley yesterday, I didn't know about any of that. Their spring ball doesn't start until spring term, so I can spend fall and winter term down here and then go up for spring term and spring ball would start in a week. It would be perfect. If I can get out in winter, I'm going to get out. That's my plan. Riley said that if I came out for spring term, they would have the scholarship waiting for me."

And would Cole be playing left or right tackle for the Beavers? Foothill flops their lines, so he can play either tackle position. "I'm comfortable in a left or right-handed stance, so either one I can comfortably sit in and play," he said. He's expecting the Beaver coaches to have him come in, compete and figure out the best position at that time.

But Cole's main position has already been determined, as far as he's concerned. He's positioned back in Oregon, back where he wants to be.

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