THIS ONE'S FOR YOU, DAD
In height and weight, Steve Cole is the smallest player in his league, but he’s got a giants share of courage, dedication, drive and heart.
By Laura Dayton
Published: Spring 1998
When Steve Cole was a freshman he had some doubts about playing football, but they were fleeting. He’d been picked on most of his life for being short, and was used to standing up for himself. Besides, he had the support and encouragement of his dad, mom and step-dad. The doubts didn’t linger long; from the moment Cole stepped in the weight room during his sophomore year, he began to plot his own strategies to become a major team player in spite of his physical limitations.
Cole had another reason for his strong sense of commitment—he wanted to make his father proud. When Cole was in the second grade his father received massive head injuries in a violent car accident that left Vince Cole in a wheelchair with limited use of his limbs and impaired speech. His son was devastated.
“For many years I was hurt and angry,” says Cole, now a senior at Maumee High School in northwestern Ohio. “I just didn’t understand why this had to happen to my dad.”
Over the years Cole has learned to manage the heartache, yet hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t think of his father, who lives in a nursing home. One of his father’s greatest joys these past few years has been reading about Cole’s phenomenal performance on the field, in both the local paper and the school newspaper. As Cole’s senior year got under way and he was clearly on his way to his best performance yet, Vince was able to actually attend one of his son’s games.
“I remember that game really well,” recalls Cole’s strength coach Robert Dryfuse. “Vince is pretty much paralyzed, but there’s still expression in his face. Let me tell you, it was a touching moment when Steve scored a touchdown that game. You could tell it really meant a lot, for both of them.”
Those close to Cole all agree that moment helped fuel the fire that kept him playing razor sharp and allowed him to set the school season rushing record by gaining just under 2000 yards. He also scored 20 touchdowns, was named offensive player of the year by the local paper and lead his team to finish off the season with a 6-4 record, the first winning season since 1994. The local press has been exuberant in praising Cole’s important role this season, a fact that has given Cole’s father immense pleasure and pride.
But Vince is far from alone in feeling proud of his son’s accomplishments.
“We play in Division II, right next to the biggest in Ohio,” says Dryfuse. “We play schools with 1200 to 1400 kids, and Steve’s the smallest, weighing in under 150 pounds and not quite 5-foot-8. For a kid his size to turn it on the way he does is a testament to just how hard he works in that weight room.I can honestly say that I don’t remember in the three years I coached him one workout that Steve ever missed.”
Cole knew from his first commitment to play ball that he was going to have to train hard. Under coach Dryfuse, himself a Maumee graduate and former football player, Cole began to follow the BFS program. In a matter of months he began to see increases in strength that translated to better playing on the field. By his senior year Cole was bench pressing 275 lbs, squatting close to 400, cleaning 200 and deadlifting 450 lbs.
Carrying on the BFS Tradition
Dryfuse doesn’t hold back his enthusiasm over the results the BFS program has achieved. He was first exposed to the program in 1985 when he was a skinny 145-lb freshman. Three years later he was a 245-lb senior offensive lineman who earned a football scholarship to the University of Indianapolis. It was while playing football in college that he decided to “give something back” and became a teacher and football coach. In 1995 he returned to Ohio
and accepted the position as strength coach at his own alma mater, Maumee High School.
“That’s when we began a new era at MHS. Our athletic director, Mr. James Robinson, bought us over a thousand dollars of new equipment and I immediately changed the program to one that reflected the BFS principles,” says Dryfuse. “We adopted a motto: ‘The road to victory is paved with iron.’ I began putting the lifters’ names on the daily announcements and selling T-shirts with our new motto. Interest grew and before I knew what was happening, I was supervising three shifts of lifters five days a week. Keep in mind, MHS only has about 1000 enrolled!
“This summer our motto was ‘Make the choice.’ We managed to post our best stats yet.” While Coach Dryfuse is extremely proud of the program’s performance, he is most proud of the individual lifters and the efforts they’ve put forth. Topping that list is Steve Cole.
“Steve has always been there to help the younger boys. He works hard in the weight room and always uses perfect technique. I’ve witnessed his leadership abilities and seen what a positive role model he is,” says Dryfuse. “The other day Steve talked about becoming a high school coach some day, and I told him that I wanted him on my staff!”
Dryfuse is also proud of the fact that this year he boasts the strongest football team in Maumee’s history. Seven of his players—Phil Klingensmith, Mike Jacobs, Cam Coutcher, Adam Wagner, Dom Hess, Stu Knight and Trey Olman—can bench 300 lbs or more. “We also have several players who squat over 400 and many who can clean 225. And while Steve’s been an outstanding player and captain this year, I have to mention our other team captain Trey Olman, who squats 500 and will probably be heading off to the Air Force Academy or West Point. We’ve also got one heck of a lifter in John Weirzbicki, who has deadlifted 600 lbs on two separate occasions!”
Not only has the BFS program helped Cole gain strength, he feels it’s been responsible for keeping him relatively injury free. “In 1996 I partially tore my NCL and ruptured my ACL. I think it would have been worse if not for the weight training,” says Cole. “I think the training has really helped me keep from reinjuring it this year.”
As for advice for other young players who may be doubting they have the height and weight to play ball, Cole says to look to him. “Size helps, but if you have everything else, mostly heart, you can come through. I never feel intimidated. I look at the positive. Because I’m smaller and I can get lower, this gives me an advantage. I really believe the most important thing is to believe in yourself, then get out there and do it!”