Beneath wide receiver Nate Cole’s number 84 jersey and shoulder pads, you’ll find a Batman t-shirt.
“I always grew up watching Batman and that’s my favorite cartoon character,” said Cole. “So it’s like a good luck shirt. I’m going to wear it under my jersey in every game and every practice.”
That’s appropriate because just as his favorite superhero had a duel identity as Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader, Cole will have two roles on the UC football team this season.
“Nate is huge – not just as a player but as a coach,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville. “He’s going to be instrumental in being a leader in that room with all the young receivers.”
Cole is the only senior among the 14 wide receivers on the Bearcats’ roster, as well as the only one with more than four career catches at the Division I level.
“I feel like an assistant coach out there,” Nate told me. “Being the oldest guy and having the most experience in the receiver room, I’m teaching as we go along. I’m still learning myself, but I’m also trying to teach the younger guys because they have to step up soon.”
“His experience means a lot,” said receivers coach Blake Rolen. “Mostly off the field – in the classroom, in the meeting rooms – that’s where he can help us.
“After a practice where we’ve had too many missed assignments he can’t be goofing around. He’s got to be that extra voice in our room. He’s earned that and the kids will listen to him because he has the most reps of anybody coming back.”
Cincinnati lost six senior receivers from 2015 including the school’s all-time leader in receptions in Shaq Washington and its all-time leader in TD catches in Chris Moore. Cole enters his final season with 38 career catches for 446 yards (11.7 ypc) and looks forward to being a more frequent target in the passing game.
“Of course – what receiver doesn’t?” said Cole. “It should be fun this year, but I want to see other people shine too.”
“We’re counting on him to have a good year,” said Tuberville. “He’s got the experience and he’s made a lot of big plays since I’ve been here. He’s one of the few guys that we have that has caught passes in a game.”
“It’s crazy being the only guy that’s left,” said Cole. “I had a real brotherhood with those guys and it’s kind of different not having them around here but I have a new group of brothers now.”
The turnover at the wide receiver position is one of the biggest question marks on this year’s roster heading into the September 1st opener against UT-Martin.
“Everybody is saying that all of the receivers are gone and with all these new receivers we’re not going to be as good,” said quarterback Hayden Moore. “That’s really just fuel for them. They know what’s expected and they’re ready to go.”
“We have a lot of talent in the receiver room,” said Cole. “We’re going to surprise a lot of people this year.
And just as Batman frequently needed assistance from his butler Alfred and sidekick Robin, Cole is counting on help from his younger teammates.
“I can’t do it by myself,” Nate told me. “I need these guys to step up and help me out and we’re going to have to get each other open. If they don’t know what they’re doing, I can’t get open and if I don’t know what I’m doing, they can’t get open. We need each other.”
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