Cole Strange at Senior Bowl (AP)

National Team offensive lineman Cole Strange of UT-Chattanooga, left, and offensive lineman Bernhard Raimann of Central Michigan run through drills during practice for the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

This past week, Chattanooga Football’s very own, Cole Strange, made a name for himself at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

The Senior Bowl is an annual college all-star football game that is played after the NCAA season. The event is considered the most prominent college football all-star game in the United States and is the first stage in the NFL Draft process. The week-long event features the best of the best college seniors going head-to-head in practices and a game in front of coaches, front office executives, and scouts from all 32 NFL teams. 

Getting an invite to the bowl is a prestigious honor for college football players that have used up all their eligibility. Without a doubt, Strange’s time in the Scenic City was special and deserving of the invite.  

Per, his achievements included:

  • 5-year starter on the offensive line using the COVID exception for a sixth-year of eligibility in 2021.
  • 2021 All-America First Team: Stats Perform, AFCA, Walter Camp, HERO Sports & Phil Steele.
  • 2021 All-America Third Team: AP
  • Jacobs Blocking Award: 2020-21, 2021
  • CoSIDA Academic All-District: 2021
  • FCS ADA Academic All-Star: 2020-21, 2021
  • 3-time All-Southern Conference.
  • 4-time Academic All-SoCon.
  • 49 games with 44 starts.
  • Freshman All-America: 2017.
  • Graduated with a degree in Psychology in December 2020.

Strange was amazing here in his time in Chattanooga and dominated the competition in front of him, but in all honesty, his chances to go up against elite, NFL-level talent were very limited. UTC is a great FCS program, but the difference between talent in the FBS and FCS is large. To be put in perspective, in last year’s NFL draft there were 259 total selections. Of those 259, just six were FCS players. That’s no bash on FCS, it’s just the truth of the matter.

To put the Division 1-AA in a better light, this can be said. FCS players that are drafted, like Strange is soon to be, are normally very solid pros. One example is Cooper Kupp. Kupp, an Eastern Washington graduate, had an all-time season this year at WR. He achieved the rare triple crown of receiving – leading the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Kupp’s team, the Los Angeles Rams, is in the Super Bowl thanks largely to him. Part of the reason Strange was one of only five FCS Senior Bowl invitees and a prospect people were eager to watch was because of how he played in Chattanooga’s 23-28 loss to Kentucky earlier this year. In the loss, Strange had maybe the most important performance of his life. He not only held his own against elite athletes, but he dominated everyone in front of him. Chattanooga was able to put up 339 total yards of offense. 171 of those yards were on the ground thanks in large part to Strange’s dominance. 

Strange used his time in Mobile to, once again, show he could compete with anyone at any level. He primarily played left guard in his time in college but was also tried out at center during the week. Going up against strictly elite prospects, Strange impressed. 

The coverage from the national media on the Knoxville native was extensive. In a Yahoo Sports article titled Tenn-Chatanooga OL Cole Strange wins Day 3 of Senior Bowl practices, full list of week’s standouts analyst Tyler Browning said, “Strange capped off an impressive week by having a fantastic Day 3 performance. There is definitely an argument he is the biggest riser out of anyone in attendance. Chattanooga is part of division I-AA, so it was not very likely many people knew about Strange going into the event, but man he did not disappoint.”’s article Why an overlooked Chattanooga prospect can be draft steal for NY Jets was completely dedicated to Strange in which David Wyatt-Hupton stated, “Cole has NFL starting guard talent and his work at center is intriguing as he absolutely has the build and style to make it work at that position,” and “I’m a believer in Cole and think the Jets would be wise to bring him on board come draft weekend.”

Finally, Sports Illustrated Zach Hicks released an article on Which Small School Players Have Stood Out at the Senior Bowl? Strange was the opener of the article as Hicks called him “one of the more pleasant surprises of the week.”

Clearly, Cole made his impression on the national media. The University of Tennessee Chattanooga will soon be proud to add another NFL player to their alumni. Strange is currently expected to be drafted in the 3rd to 6th round range. In the Major overall rankings, he sits at 94th from Bleacher Report, 100th from ESPN, 107th from CBS Sports, and 144th from PFF. His NFL dreams are becoming more and more of a reality every day.

With under three months until the NFL Draft, the city of Chattanooga will soon have a new team to root for wherever he lands.





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