On the field, Cole enters his senior year as the third-best punter in NC State’s history. Off the field, he has visited Kenya over the past five years to assist children in need.
With the 2018 football season just weeks away from kickoff, it’s clear that many players will stand out for their performances. However, there is one player that NC State fans may have overlooked for his contributions on and off the field.
NC State senior punter A.J. Cole III has been starting for the Wolfpack since his freshman year and has helped lead his team to multiple victories. When the offense slows down, Cole enters into a battle of limiting field position for the opposing team. With his final season quickly approaching, that’s exactly what Cole wants to focus on to further assist the Wolfpack.
“My biggest goal as a team is to win the ACC Championship. That hasn’t happened down here in a long time,” Cole said. “Individually, every time I have the opportunity to punt, I just want to help the team and set up the defense as well as I can.”
Cole’s performance on the field is notable, as he currently holds the third-best overall punting average in NC State history at 43.7 yards per kick.
“It’s just about really focusing on consistency,” Cole said. “I think the biggest thing I want to take off in my final year is my bad punts. I think my best punts have been what I’m looking for, but I want to take bad punts off of film.”
As for Cole’s work off the field, the punter has visited Kenya the past five years to assist children in need. His missionary work has not only touched the hearts of the Kenyan children, but also those of his coaches and teammates.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned from these trips is just how blessed we are living in a country like we do. Being able to play college football, I have everything I need and everything I want really,” Cole said. “There are all kinds of people across the world that would kill for an opportunity to be blessed like that, so I’m really just trying to appreciate everything that I have.”
The senior recognizes that this will be his final round as a college football player, and wants to focus on how he can further influence those around him.
“I want to make the most out of all my opportunities because I’m only going to be a college football player for a couple more months and then my platform is going to move away from what it is now,” Cole said. “But I owe it to those kids over there.”
NC State head football coach Dave Doeren has thought highly of Cole since his first day on the scene, as both an individual and a punter. Both on and off the field, Cole exudes dedication and work ethic.
“Off the field, he’s without a doubt the most connected spiritually,” Doeren said. “Talk about knowing who you are. He knows exactly who he is as a person, exactly who he is spiritually, and he knows what his ‘Why’ is.”
Cole’s leadership on the field has not gone unnoticed. His ability to be a positive influence on his teammates in game day situations is what the coaches recognize the most.
“He’s really good with the special team’s guys and I think he has great energy,” Doeren said. “But also, he understands how to calm guys down and talk to people. He has great leadership ability and a talented leg.”
Graduate kicker Kyle Bambard has been a part of Cole’s life for his entire collegiate career and believes his influence as a positive role model is undoubtedly the best on the team.
“People often forget that football is something we do and not who we are,” Bambard said. “I’ve lived with A.J. for four years now and I know him best as a roommate, friend and most importantly a brother. What I’ll miss most about A.J. is simply having him in my life on a daily basis.”
With many hours spent in the books studying industrial engineering, Cole has options after graduation.
“I’m going to train and try to give the NFL a shot,” Cole said. “But if that doesn’t work out then I’ll just try to get a job and go wherever that takes me.”