From Baltimore to Dublin, Ireland: How Brett Cole rekindled his love for football

University College Dublin ran out comfortable winners on this past weekend in the Irish American Football League against the University of Limerick Vikings, beating the Vikings 22-12. However, it was young American running back Brett Cole who stole the show.

Cole, who’s originally from Frederick, Maryland which is located just outside Baltimore, is spending a semester at UCD studying for a business degree. When he arrived in Ireland little did he know that he’s rediscover a love for  the game of American Football.

Brett himself explains how he fell out of love with the game,:

“I have been playing football basically my whole life, since I was about seven years of age. I played all through high cchool. I got recruited through a small college for football, but ended up not playing college football at all. I tried to walk on at the NCAA Division 1 level and it didn’t work out. So, I just kind of hung up the pads.”

Then he heard about the UCD American Football team thought his college mates, although he admits is was a surprise to learn that they played the game. He said:

“I was really surprised actually, I was sitting there talking to my friend and he was talking to two dudes and I walk over to them and go, ‘hey, what’s going on?’ and they say, ‘we play American Football’.  So, I say like, ‘what do ye play, flag or touch?’ and they say, ‘of course not, we play with pads’ and I was like, well that sounds like fun!  I went out to a couple of practices with them at the beginning of the season.  I thought I might as well, as this is my last chance to play again. I started playing with the team and I joined the club.”

Unfortunately for Cole, injuries held him up early in the season:

“Yeah I was kinda late; I got a late start to the season because I had some quad issues.  I had a couple of little fluky injuries that held me back and I wasn’t able to play the first 3 games. My first real game was against The Trojans.”

It was a game the Students won 37-33, with Cole scoring two touchdowns.

As a youngster growing up in the United States, football is played from a very young age, however in Ireland it’s different. Cole said:

“That’s one thing that surprised me; you guys aren’t allowed to start playing American Football over here until you are 16 for insurance reasons. That’s pretty crazy from an American’s perspective.  Especially since you guys play rugby, so that kinda blows me away, that you can play rugby but not tackle football!”

Cole then went on to talk about the differences between playing in Ireland and America:

“I competed at a pretty high level in high school, actually I played against 2 guys who recently joined the NFL this past Draft, so I played at a really high level. We played the sport, it’s like a job. I didn’t have a job all the way through high school because I was so dedicated to the sport, like we practiced every single day. We had games on Friday nights during the season, we had film sessions on Saturday mornings, and you had Sundays off.”

Photo: Keith Elgin

“In the summer time you had like a month off and from late June, basically through to December, you are playing football. In the summer months there were 2-a-day practices, along with the humid East Coast heat which is where I am from. It’s just craziness man! I remember when I was training, a couple of summers, they actually had the Marines come and like take us through some workouts – the level of training is pretty insane as far as how much they put you through, especially a 17 or 18 year old kid.”

“Then over here, we train like twice a week, sometimes 3 times a week. Actually, the training at UCD kind of surprised me a bit. Obviously, we have matches every 2 or 3 weeks, that’s a little different for me. But I will say that I was pleasantly surprised!with the knowledge that a lot of these guys have over here. I mean, for guys that are not playing a sport for that long, they really do understand the game. I was debating you know, should I play this or was it worth it, but when I met the coaches and was talking to them, seeing what they do it’s like they know their stuff over here, they really do. They are passionate about it too, they want to win games too, that’s something that drew me to it.”

He’s very happy to now play on the UCD team, and with a 5-0 start it’s not surprising. Cole said,:

“Yeah, it’s awesome. I’m just blessed to be a part of this team. This team is amazing, we’ve got a great group of guys.”

Even though he scored three touchdowns at the weekend, Cole says that it was a poor performance from the team, especially in the first half, but says there was mitigating circumstances. He discussed the thrilling victory  over the Trojans:

“The game this weekend was actually probably one of the worst games we’ve played, in all honesty. We came out really slow, but I actually kind of tip my hat to the Vikings because towards the end of the game, they didn’t let up.  I would say skill level and you know the level of our players, we were actually a much better team than they were.  We kind of played down to their level this weekend and we should have scored about 40 points on them. But everyone kinda wasn’t doing their job in the first half, we had only scored one touchdown in the first half which was kinda sad; considering we are coming off one of the biggest wins in our school’s history” – However, I would attribute that to the fact that we hadn’t played a match for a couple of weeks, so there’s that, plus we also had our finals in between our last game and this game.”

“In the second half, we really turned it on, we kept running the ball because it was pouring with rain the whole match, so we didn’t really pass. But yeah, we just kept pounding the ball, it opened up the holes in the 2nd half and I was able to run through them and find space and score touchdowns. Most of the touchdowns, I’d say were under 20 yards in the red zone.  We just beat the ball down the field and crushed yards and pounded the ball in the end zone.”

So, is coming to Ireland to both study and play football something he would recommend to other students back home, now that he’s done it himself and Cole said,

“Oh, 100%, absolutely. When I get back, I’m definitely going to talk to people.  As I said before I go to a Division 1 school back in the States – Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and there is a lot of guys that basically aren’t on the team because the level of playing Division 1 is basically the NFL as far as the skill level and the guys playing.”

“There’s a lot of guys, we don’t have club football, we don’t really have men’s leagues where you can suit up and go out on Sundays and play with your friends. A lot of guys pick up rugby, a lot of guys who don’t play in college, they end up playing rugby in college for club teams, which is kind of fascinating.  But yeah, I’m definitely going to tell people about this when I get back and try and get the word out. It’s a real cool opportunity for guys who maybe thought that they might not have any other chance to play.”

With five touchdowns in two games for UCD, Brett Cole is loving being back playing the game that he started playing as a kid.

Irish American Football Association
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