Hokies safety Michael Cole announced yesterday that he’ll no longer play football because of the neck injury he suffered against Florida State in November.
The former Cave Spring High standout sat down with a few media folks to discuss the injury and his decision on Friday. Here’s some of what he had to say:
Q: How hard of a decision was this to give up football?
Cole: “It’s definitely really been a hard decision. I think my family and the coaches supporting me has really helped. Their recommendations have really just led to this decision.”
Q: When you looked at the medical things involved, would it have been impossible to come back?
Cole: “Yeah. There was definitely a lot of grim circumstances, I guess, for coming back, a lot of high risk. And it was probably the best decision for my future.”
Q: Had you come to grips with this a while ago?
Cole: “Definitely when it happened it was pretty traumatic, pretty scary for myself and my family. But this decision has kind of been a process. My faith has played a huge role in it in kind of coming to terms with everything, what I’m going to do next, because football has been such a huge role in my life. But it’s definitely been a process and I’m slowly getting there in coming to terms with it.”
Q: What are you going to do with the football team next year?
Cole: “Not really sure yet, but I would definitely like to be on the medical side of things. I’ll probably talk to Mike [Goforth], our trainer, and probably the team doctor and see if I can get into something with them, because that’s kind of what I want to do later in the future.”
Q: You’re a biological sciences major. Did this pique your interest more in the medical side of things?
Cole: “I guess you could say that, yeah. Definitely talking to Mike, being able to stay with the team in this kind of aspect is exciting for me. So hopefully we can still make something work.”
Q: What was it like to not be able to play the last few games?
Cole: “It was tough. It was really tough. Because I felt like I was definitely starting to improve throughout the season. Kind of got thrown in there early, and I kind of felt like I got better as the season went on. So for me to go down like that, so sudden, it kind of hurt me mentally. Because I felt like I was improving and getting better. So to sit on the sidelines for the last three games was tough.”
Q: What happened on the play against Florida State?
Cole: “I’ve looked at the film and I don’t really see anything incredibly different. It was just a routine play, a routine tackle is what it looks like to me. But I guess just the way things happened, it didn’t really turn out the best. But that’s just the way it is, I guess.”
Q: You’ve had stingers before?
Cole: “Yeah, I’ve had a series of stingers in the past. So I guess I was battling with that. My freshman year when I first came in, I had some stinger problems. And whether that contributed or not, I’m not sure. But I’ve been doing the best I can now.”
Q: You had surgery earlier, right?
Cole: “Yeah, I had surgery on Jan. 2 just to relieve some of the pressure. I had some nerve discomfort from the injury. [A doctor] in Roanoke did the surgery and just kind of cleaned some stuff up and I’m feeling better now. I have better range of motion and stuff. I’m kind of starting to feel back to normal a little bit.”
Q: Did you know during that surgery you wouldn’t be playing again?
Cole: “Right. Yeah. At that point I think the decision was kind of made. There were kind of two routes. I could have had that surgery or I could have had a fusion, a double-level fusion, which was really ill-advised by all the doctors and everybody. So that kind of made the decision there a little bit. So I went ahead and got this surgery done to kind of relieve some of the pain and pressure from the nerve.”
Q: Are there any long-term effects?
Cole: “That’s a possibility but that’s a possibility for anybody as they age. In football, a lot of people have problems anyways so whether this contributes to it or not, I’m not really sure. I think definitely getting this surgery hopefully will buy me some time if I do have problems. We have kind of just see.”
Q: How much will you miss football?
Cole: “Probably too much. I already miss it now and we’re not even in season. So I feel like when we start rolling around, putting the pads on in the spring or the fall, I think that’ll probably be a tough time for me. But it’s just something I have to deal with.”
Q: Can you remember a time when you weren’t playing football?
Cole: “It would go so far back. When I was like real, real little. And it’s been there ever since, so it’s definitely going to be different. It’s going to be hard. But it has to end eventually for everybody. Unfortunately, a little premature for me. But I think I’ll be OK.”
Cole said his career highlights are the interceptions he made against Clemson and Duke. The Clemson one, if you remember, was a circus catch. Here it is: