Rookie Spotlight: OLB Justin Cole

Posted Jul 1, 2010

Cole is a versatile performer who began his collegiate career as a defensive end

On July 29th, 80 men will report to training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri with one goal in mind – to wear the Kansas City Chiefs logo on their helmets when The New Arrowhead Stadium hosts its first-ever Monday Night Football Game on September 13th. Chiefs fans are already familiar with the majority of players who will be competing for roster spots this summer, but the crop of undrafted free agents often enter camp anonymous to the fan base.

Starting on June 29th and ending on July 14th, we’ll meet each of the Chiefs undrafted players for conversation. These are members of the Chiefs roster that can’t be ignored. History tells us that several of these men will end up on Kansas City’s Opening Day 53-man squad.

Today’s Rookie Focus – LB Justin Cole (6-3, 242)

Quick Intro – An outside linebacker at San Jose State, Cole appeared in 49 games with the Spartans while making 42 starts. He finished his collegiate career with 193 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss, 13.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and nine passes defensed.

JL: You played all over the field in college. Does that position versatility from your past help you with what they’re asking you to do here at outside linebacker?

JC: Yeah, I think that it definitely makes the transition easier being able to know linebacker and having also played on the defensive line. You can kind of know what they’re expecting on the back end and what you are kind of expecting from them, so it definitely helps from a mental aspect.

JL: Cole began his career at San Jose State as a defensive end before transitioning to outside linebacker.

JL: Talk about the position switch that you made to outside linebacker before your junior year. What were the challenges that you faced back then and what did you accomplish from that process?

JC: I think that I had to learn a lot of it on the go. It was a lot of baptism by fire. Linebacker is a lot more detail oriented and you have to know a lot more than a defensive end necessarily would on any given play. I think that I picked it up very well and it’s something that I think, as a player, is a strength of mine. I’m able to mentally adapt to things very well and that transition was actually very good to me. I’m happy that I got that opportunity and was able to make the best of it.

JL: Have the veterans in your position group helped you out at all with what to expect at the position in the pro ranks?

JC: Yeah, you learn something new from every player. No player is the same, so I’m definitely trying to pick up as much as I can from the guys ahead of me and from the guys who have been in the league for a long time. Obviously those guys are doing something right and I just try to absorb everything they say, then see if I can translate that into my game or at least from a mental aspect of knowing what to expect on certain plays. It definitely helps me out and those guys have been really accepting and really helpful.

JL: This may sound a bit odd, but Cole actually has the most positional experience of any outside linebacker on this football team outside of Mike Vrabel. Obviously, Cole’s experience doesn’t come at the pro level, but everyone else in his position group either transitioned into the position last year or is doing so this year. Even Vrabel originally entered the league as a defensive end.

JL: Talk about your durability. If I’m right, you didn’t miss any games at San Jose?

JC: No, Sir, I didn’t. It was just about staying in good shape. I pride myself in being physically the best that I can be, whether its cardio, strength or quickness. In the off-season you like to take a little time for yourself, but I’d like to say that people say I live in the weight room and that I had the keys to it. That’s just the type of character I am. I’m very competitive and if I’m not in the weight room than someone is getting better than me. I just have to stay in there and prove myself any way that I can.

JL: What about your measurables? Physically, what are your best assets?

JC: I feel that I’m more of a speed player, being able to rush the edge with a lot of speed coming around the corner. But I also have the athletic ability to cover and play in space. I don’t want to be one of those players that is just a first, second or third down player. I want to be a four-down player, able to play in the ground and dirt with the linemen, but also able to play in space.

JL: Speaking of playing in space, how has that gone with the speed change in the pro game?

JC: Yeah, it’s definitely way different than in college. In college you can get away with things based off your athletic ability versus some of the other players, but here everybody is either just as quick or way quicker than you. You have to mentally know what your abilities are and what out their abilities are; kind of gauge that to find out where you have to be.

JL: A lot of scouting services had you as a draftable player. Obviously, that’s not what ended up happening. Does going undrafted put a chip on your shoulder to come in here and try to prove yourself?

JC: Yeah, definitely. There is already that chip on your shoulder just because you want to prove that you can play at this level and aren’t a guy who is just here. I definitely took that to heart. There were 31 teams that didn’t think I was as good as the guys taken off the board. That’s no disrespect to the talented players that they are, but I’m confident in my abilities and every time I go out there I want people to wonder why I wasn’t on their board and why they didn’t try to pick me up.

I just kind of internalize it. It is what it is. God gives you opportunities and I’m thankful that the Chiefs gave me this opportunity. I’m very grateful to be on this team. I’m just going out there to try and be the best player that I can be for this team and take it from there.

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