North Carolina native Matt Cole probably never imagined that his boyhood dream would land him in Moundridge, Kansas.
He may have taken a rather circuitous route, but Cole is finally realizing his dream, even if it comes later in life.
Cole recently was named as the Moundridge Wildcats’ head football coach, replacing Courtney Moddelmog.
“When I first went to Mars Hill (College in North Carolina) back in 1982, I had dreamed of being a high school head coach,” Cole said. “I would have never thought then it would be at 50 years old and in Kansas, but when you don't give up on a dream, God has a way of opening doors and His timing is always perfect.”
Cole is hardly a football novice. He was one of the top-rated high school receivers in North Carolina at Brevard High School and that earned him a scholarship to Mars Hill College.
He’s always been around the game. He has 27 years of coaching experience — three at the high school level (most recently as an assistant at Goessel High School last year), two at the semipro level and 22 at the youth level.
Coaching at nearby Goessel last year, Cole’s interest piqued when the Moundridge job came open.
“The opportunity to lead a great group of young men, cut from the same cloth as the amazing group we had at Goessel last year, was the biggest thing that appealed to me,” Cole said. “Getting back to the 11-man game, where I spent 26 of my 27 years coaching, certainly was appealing.”
Moundridge has had some quality teams down through the years, but the Wildcats have struggled recently with numbers and a spate of injuries.
“I have had an opportunity to meet with our young men and to watch quite a bit of film,” said Cole, who has hit the ground running. “I won't call out individual players because everything we do we'll do as a team. That said, we have all the ingredients necessary to win at Moundridge. We just have to get players, coaches and fans believing we not only can, but will, win. Football hasn't changed much in the 40-plus years I have been around the game, you still have to block and tackle and run and throw as good or better than the next guy.”
Cole adds that football is as much about the mind as it is physical stature.
“The real difference-maker is mental, not physical,” he said. “If you step on the field believing you can beat anybody, then you have a chance to do so. If you step on the field believing you can't, you've lost already. We WILL believe at Moundridge we can beat anybody.”
Cole has definite goals for the Wildcats, but there’s an ultimate one.
“There is only one goal that matters and that is winning the last game of the season,” he said. “Last I checked that one is played at Fort Hays State University and our goal is to be there playing and not just watching. Does that mean we won't consider anything less a successful season? No, having a winning record and making the playoffs will be great. But, our goal is to win a state championship and any less of a goal would be selling our kids short as their coach. If I don't set that goal and believe we will do that then why would anyone else?”
Cole will be a Rule 10 coach as he works in the private sector. His son, Matthew, is a production company manager and musician in St. Petersburg, Fla. His daughter, Ashlee, will be graduating in a couple of weeks from Tabor College in Hillsboro. She was coach and captain of the Bluejays’ cheer program this past year.
The season can’t get here fast enough for Cole.
“I have had the privilege of being around the game of football for as long as I can remember and I can honestly say I have never been more excited about an upcoming season as I am 2015,” he said. “We have a great group of young men, we'll have a very talented and knowledgeable staff, and we have the best fans in Kansas. I thank and praise God for the opportunity to be here. I feel truly blessed.”