From the end of his senior season at Missouri State all the way up to this weekend, Dylan Cole has had the biggest job interview of his life. He's logged thousands of miles across the country and hundreds of minutes on his phone. He's shown his physical skills in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and on Pro Day. He's shown his mental skills in meetings with several NFL teams.
And he's knocked every single one of them out of the park.
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The 6-foot-1, 240-pound linebacker has seen his stock shoot up in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. Bleacher Report gave Cole a glowing review in a tweet earlier this month:
He has the potential to be an offense destroyer in the NFL.
Don't sleep on Dylan Cole. pic.twitter.com/fOSQOVadYz
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 14, 2017
NFLDraftScout ranks him the 15th best outside linebacker in the draft and NFL.com projects Cole to be selected in the fifth round.
Not bad for a guy with two Division 2 offers and one Division 1 offer from Missouri State out of high school.
So how did the dream become a reality?
"I just kept doing what I knew how to do. And that was work hard," Cole told HERO Sports. "That's on and off the field. You have to work hard physically and work hard mentally. I think I did a good job of that and stayed focused. There were a few bumps in the road, but at the end of the day, you just need to do what you know you're capable of doing. I know I can work hard. I know I'm a smart kid and I can pick up on things like that. You combine that with athleticism, that can be something special."
Special certainly sums up his career at Missouri State. Cole grew up just 17 miles from campus in a town of 3,300 people called Rogersville. After redshirting his first year for the Bears in 2012, Cole went on to start in all 46 games played. He led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in total tackles his junior season, and then led the entire FCS in that category last season with 142 in 11 games.
With scouts on his radar, Cole officially blew up March 22 at MSU's Pro Day.
His 32 reps on the 225-pound bench press and 39-inch vertical jump topped every linebacker's metrics at the NFL Combine this year. He also clocked a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, which would have ranked him second at the Combine behind Michigan's Jabrill Peppers.
What does that spell out for the NFL scouts? An absolute disrupter on special teams as Cole works his way into the linebacker rotation.
"Honestly I thought (interest) would pick up after my Pro Day," Cole said. "I was pretty confident going into my Pro Day. I didn't even perform as well as I wanted to. But I just knew overall it was a good Pro Day. I didn't know exactly what it was going to look like afterwards. But things have really picked up and teams have caught interest. I still have no idea where or when I'm going to go, but I'm just excited that I caught this kind of interest at this level."
Cole said he's worked out for about eight NFL teams, although the term work out can be used lightly.
"It was more film watching," Cole said. "All the teams that worked me out just said we know you can move and are athletic, we just want to see how you process things and what's going on mentally when we watch this film. They call them workouts, but really they're just working out my brain, not my body."
With the job interview done and NFL Draft weekend here, Cole can sit back and wait to see where his football career will go next. There won't be much relaxing, though. The process has been stressful. But Cole has done his part to show he's one of the most physically-gifted linebackers in this year's draft.
"It's hard to absorb honestly," Cole said. "I couldn't put it into words. I've been very busy. My anxiety just keeps building the closer we get to the time I get that phone call that I want. Everything you've been working for is really about to happen. Dreams do come true. This is Step 1 of it, but this is part of the dream that I've been dreaming about."