NFL veteran Cole enjoys the challenge of adapting to CFL


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It was the day of an NFL pre-season game with the New York Giants when Matt Cole was hit with an unexpected demand.

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It was the day of an NFL pre-season game with the New York Giants when Matt Cole was hit with an unexpected demand.

Joe Judge, the team’s head coach at the time, told the wide receiver he’d be moving to the other side of the ball and playing cornerback when the Giants met the Cleveland Browns in a few hours.

“That morning, as I got on the first bus to the stadium, they said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna need you to play corner today.’ And I was like, ‘For sure, let’s do it,” Cole told the Free Press this week.


Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea is impressed with defensive back Matt Cole’s athleticism and versatility.

He wasn’t a complete stranger to the position as he attended several defensive-back camps while growing up, but it was still a big ask and one most pros wouldn’t relish.

Not Cole. He lined up for 20 snaps on defence that night and didn’t allow a single reception his way.

“I like a challenge. I’m very competitive. I’m betting on myself 110 per cent of the time. You can line me up against someone whether it’s a position I’ve done before or not, I’m gonna do the best that I can at it,” said Cole, who hails from Chicago and played college football at NCAA Division II McKendree University.

The latest challenge for Cole, who has since made the full-time switch to DB, is trying to get used to the Canadian game and making the cut with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The 26-year-old athlete has taken his talents north to keep his career alive after stints with the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets and Giants, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders.

When Washington cut him prior to the 2022 NFL campaign, Cole stayed ready in hopes another team would give him a chance. He didn’t expect that call to come from the CFL, but called it a blessing.

“It’s been a new learning curve for me, especially with the offence getting a competitive advantage with a running start. But with the IQ I have as a wide receiver, I use that to my advantage,” said Cole.

“I’m just very versatile. Being on defence and having a receiver coming at you, that’s a challenge. It’s either you stick it or you can’t. If you can stick it with an offensive player getting an advantage, that’s pretty impressive.”

Cole will suit up in Saturday afternoon’s pre-season game in Edmonton against the Elks. He’s also auditioning for a job as a returner.

“A lot of emotions are gonna be running. I may mess up here, I may do great here, but all I can do is go out there and give it my all,” he said.

“I don’t want to leave that field unless my tank is on empty.”

Cole, listed at 5-10, 197 pounds, still has a steep learning curve ahead of him, but head coach Mike O’Shea is intrigued by his potential.

“He’s loosened up a little bit since he’s been here. I think he’s having some fun. I think he’s competing well,” said O’Shea.

“He’s certainly very gifted athletically. He’s so versatile, right? If you’re that athletic, there’s a lot of versatility, which is very interesting.”

Finding a consistent football home has been a challenge for Cole, but one of the big reasons why he hasn’t given up on his dream is his three-year-old son, Matthew Jr.

“He may not know now, but his dad is trying to set him up for the rest of his life. I’m working hard so I can make his life a little less difficult,” said Cole.

Matthew Jr. turned three on Tuesday. It was the first time Cole had missed one of his birthdays. He FaceTimed his son from the locker room and sang Happy Birthday with the help of a few teammates.

Cole hopes he can leave Commonwealth Stadium with a belated birthday present for his junior.

“I’m coming home with a ball,” he said. “If I get an interception, the next time I see him I’ll have a present for him.”

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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