Seattle is currently allowing the third-fewest rushing yards per attempt in the league. "He has been a force," coach Pete Carroll said of nose tackle Colin Cole.
Colin Cole drove his 1994 Chevy Blazer out of Detroit six years ago, cut from the Lions practice squad the very same day he was signed to it.
As he drove eight hours back to Iowa City, he wondered just where he was headed.
“The whole drive there, I’m thinking, ‘Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Is this going to work out for me?’ ” Cole said. “What do I do from here?
“I’m just glad I stuck with it.”
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So are the Seahawks. The defensive lineman who went undrafted into the NFL has become the man in the middle of a run defense that has been Seattle’s strength so far this season.
He is a 330-pound nose tackle whose contributions don’t always show up on the stat sheet. His personality is beginning to emerge from the Seahawks’ locker room as he begins his second year in Seattle.
The youngest of seven children in his family, he was the only one born in Toronto after his family moved from Jamaica. He went to high school in Florida, where he was an all-state lineman and heavyweight wrestling champ.
He went to Iowa, and the first date with his wife, Kaye, was to see Bill Clinton speak at a symposium on campus. He proposed within nine months.
This month, he has been wearing a pair of yellow sneakers so bright he describes them as tennis-ball green.
“They used to be white,” he joked. “My awesomeness bled into them.”
Yes, his essence is apparently fluorescent.
But footwear is not the reason he has stood out so far. He’s a nose tackle, playing a position as close as a football comes to a boiler room. On every play, he must be ready to hold his ground while two 300-pound opponents try to move him out of the way, and if you want to see the magnitude of his impact, look no further than the fact Seattle is currently allowing the third-fewest rushing yards per attempt in the league.
“He has been a force,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He has made a lot of plays outside of just the nose-tackle box by chasing the football around. The fact that he’s a big stud dude in there, he gives us a lot of girth inside.”
Seattle changed its M.O. along the defensive line this offseason, instituting some principles of a 3-4 defensive formation even as it remained in a 4-3 alignment. The Seahawks are now starting three 300-pounders along the defensive line, and the objective isn’t always penetration.
As the nose tackle, Cole is often asked to hold the point, which means standing firm even if he’s double-teamed. His impact won’t always be apparent in terms of tackles and certainly not with regard to sacks.
Talk to his teammates for a better indicator of his impact.
“A guy that you love playing with,” linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. “I always appreciate what he brings to the defense. It often goes overlooked when you look at the stat sheet or something like that, but we know how much he means to us upfront.”
Hard to imagine someone like that could spend the first two years of his career overlooked and seeking work. Undrafted out of Iowa in 2003, he played first with Minnesota and later in Detroit as a rookie.
He was with the Lions in training camp in 2004, but didn’t make the final cut. Detroit brought him back to the practice squad that year only to cut him the very same day it signed him. He drove back to Iowa City before signing with Green Bay later that season, added first to the practice squad and later promoted to the active roster.
He played four more seasons with the Packers before coming to Seattle as a free agent in 2009, arriving with the attributes to survive in the middle of the defensive line.
“It’s a dirty job,” said Dan Quinn, Seattle’s defensive-line coach. “You’ve got to be heavy-handed and strong-willed.”
Turns out a pair of fluorescent shoes don’t hurt, either.