Strange journey to FCS All-American honors

Ex-FHS star overcomes injuries, adjusts quickly as UTC left guard

With all the injuries and position changes Cole Strange has endured, beginning as a senior star defender with Farragut High School football, it’s a wonder he didn’t get eaten alive as a starting redshirt-freshman guard with the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.

Instead, Strange was named a 2017 Phil Steele Football Championship Series [Division 1-AA]All-American as a left guard — having started just five games with limited practice time at that position.

This 6-foot-5, 280-pound 19-year-old was a back-up left tackle and special teams player, which dated back to pre-season drills, until mid-season.

“The coaches came to me and asked me if I’d be OK moving to guard,” Strange said about getting only one week of practice at left guard before starting at Mercer Oct. 14.

Moreover, this standout linebacker at FHS — who transitioned into an All-State defensive end his senior year as an Admiral in 2015 — had limited practice time as an offensive lineman at UTC entering the 2017 fall season.

“By the time camp came around this year [in the summer], I had practiced only about a week-and-a-half at offensive line,” he said. “And I had been practicing at left tackle.”

However, following Strange’s move to starting left guard, “the Mocs had some of their best offensive performances of the year in the last five games, including a 23-21 upset of No. 8 [nationally ranked] Samford on the road,” a UTC Sports Information press release stated about an otherwise dreary 3-8 Mocs season.

“Strange solidified his position at left guard after playing the first part of the season on special teams.”

That late-season run also included a near upset victory at No. 8-ranked Wofford, losing 24-21.

“At guard I really like run blocking. For the most part, it’s what I’m more comfortable with,” he said.

About being named an All-American, Strange said, “I was surprised because I guess they already had released the All-Conference awards, and there were several other guys on the team that made All-Conference and I didn’t make All-Conference.”

As for how he learned about earning All-American honors, he said, “Our offensive line has a group message [board] where we can all text each other and talk to one another, and one of the offensive lineman sent that message in; there was a link ... on the left side, and it said that I made All-American.”

About his various challenges, Strange said, “In high school I played defense mostly, and when I came into college they moved me over to offensive line [in 2016]. And I got hurt almost the first week [of practice] in college, I hurt my ankle, and I was out for all the fall [season].

“Whenever spring [2017] came around, I hurt my wrist in the weight room before spring practice ever started,” he added about missing spring practice.