Player Profile: Caleb Cole

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Soccer, like all sports, has some great stories. The grassroots level is loaded with them, but none of them quite match up to that of Chattanooga FC’s Caleb Cole, who has climbed from ballboy to professional player at CFC.

His playing career started as a three-year-old. At the time, Cole and his family were living in Phoenix, Arizona. His older sister was playing in a recreational league and according to Cole, “I just ran onto the field and started playing. I’ve been playing ever since!”

Cole lived in Chattanooga from the time he was eight-years-old, until he was fourteen-years-old. During this time, he played under Pedro Kozak, an Argentine living in Chattanooga, who runs an academy in the area. Cole gives Kozak “credit for [his] development as a young player.”

Near the end of that stretch in the scenic city, Chattanooga FC was getting up and running. During this time, Cole and some of his friends had the opportunity to be ballboys for a few CFC matches. That obviously wouldn’t be his last time on the field at Finley Stadium.

In high school, Cole and his family moved up to Pennsylvania. During their time there, Cole played for a couple of club teams, including Penn Fusion and FC Continental (at the time they were FC Delco)’s Development Academy.

Following his time in high school, Cole attended Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he was a top player. In 2014 and 2016, Cole was named a Second-Team All-American. In 2015, he was a first-team All-American. He remains as the only player to ever do so at Gordon College.

During that three-year stretch, Cole led his team in goals every year. He also led the team in assists in 2015 and 2016. His presence at Gordon College was undeniable. Cole’s coach at Gordon, Derek Potteiger, would also eventually end up in the Scenic City, as well.

Potteiger took over the Lee University program in Cleveland, TN (just outside of Chattanooga), in 2017 and has been there ever since, but that isn’t his only significance in this story. While at Gordon, Potteiger reached out to Bill Elliot, the head coach of Chattanooga FC, to get his star player on board with the club.

As Cole says, “I worked hard at CFC, eventually opening the door for more opportunities with the club.” And those opportunities have certainly continued to come as Cole is still on the squad six years later.

Cole has nothing but praise for his time with Chattanooga FC. “CFC is a fantastic organization to be a part of, from the coaching staff and players (both current and former) to the front office staff, owners, and especially the Chattahooligans,” says Cole, “What an amazing organization, which I am grateful to be a part of.”

Cole also credits the quality of the squad for his improvements as a player, saying, “I had to work really hard to get to where I am now as a player. It takes grit and desire, and a willingness to train and get better even when you don’t feel like it and no is watching. CFC was a huge part of pushing me as a player and a person to mature and grow.”

That hard work has paid off. Last season, Cole scored his first goal for “The Boys in Blue” with a goal against the Atlanta Silverbacks (now Atlanta SC) “I think when I scored there was a moment where I didn’t quite believe it, and then the adrenaline hits you and everything else is a blur,” says Cole, “It’s one of the best feelings to celebrate with my teammates.”

Cole was also in the starting lineup against Real Betis a few weeks ago. He didn’t score against the La Liga giants and CFC fell 4-3, but it was still a great experience according to Cole, who said, “It was an amazing experience to walk out next to guys who I'd watched on TV play against Real Madrid only a couple weeks previously in La Liga. The coaching staff told us it was special, but that at the end of the day there are eleven of us and eleven of them. They are very methodical about how they try and pull a defense apart, and you have to be mentally tuned in and see the danger signs.”

The experiences off of the field are just as important as the ones on the field, and Cole has had his fair share of great experiences. “This team is great to be a part of, lots of talent on the field, and a great group of guys off the field which is truly unique,” he says, “We want to win. We want to be a family that competes together, and wins together.”

Aside from his teammates, he is also extremely thankful for the fans and the experiences he has had with them. “I think what stands out is the countless number of positive interactions that have come out of being a part of this club whether that be friendships on the team, or conversations with coaches, moments with fans after matches, joining the Chattahooligans at Chatt Brew post match... it is really special, and I am so thankful to be where I am!”

He also had high praise for the CFC Foundation and Operation Get Active. Cole points out the fact that “technology [plays] such a huge role” in the “formative” years of young kids. The Foundation does some great stuff and having players being involved is really awesome.

Caleb Cole’s story is truly incredible. From three-year-old pitch invader to ballboy to All-American to professional player, Cole has experienced so much through the game and has even played against a major European club. With these season getting underway for CFC and the Founder’s Cup coming up this fall, Cole’s story is surely not close to being over.

- Aarik Long

Graphic by Cory Mizer.