There are some nice plays among the nine 2019 video highlights of Cheshire’s Cole Feinauer. He blocks a punt. He intercepts a pass and returns it 35 yards to the opposition 5. He bats down a throw. He reaches over a defender, juggles the ball and pulls it in for a touchdown.
Those are all of the highlights, Feinauer said, not some of them. As a tight end? Yes. As an edge rusher and interior D-line? Yes. Nothing from the offensive line.
“I’ve never played offensive line in my life and I’m going to Colorado State to play offensive line,” Feinauer said. “It’s a great deal. I love it. It turned out perfect.”
Feinauer counts playing in seven football games. That would be seven in his junior season before COVID-19 erased his senior season and so many senior seasons around Connecticut, right?
“No, in my life,” he said.
“No, I was playing baseball,” Feinauer said. “Freshman year, I went out but I broke my ankle, so I don’t count that.”
Seven football games lifetime. Man, you are the definition of raw potential.
Feinauer breaks into a laugh.
“Over-raw,” he said.
I’m 6’7’’ and a lean 300 pounds. Looking for someone to take a chance on me. I tore my ACL and recovery time is 6-7 months. I’m willing to work for a chance because from what I recently experienced nothing is handed to you. My work ethic is unmatched, just looking for a home. pic.twitter.com/WjLtrcXrHo
— Cole Feinauer (@feinauer) March 18, 2021
Yet here he was turning away scholarship offers in the fall to play football for Merrimack, Wagner, a handful of FCS schools in all. And after a Twitter post on March 18 brought 203 retweets, more than 1,200 likes and a slew of interest, he chose to become a preferred walk-on at FBS Colorado State. It turns out the longtime association between the Addazio family and Cheshire football led to his decision to head for the Rockies. Yet the Twitter post brought him all sorts of attention and it helps tell part of Cole Feinauer’s story:
“I’m 6-7 and a lean 300 pounds. Looking for someone to take a chance on me. I tore my ACL and recovery time is 6-7 months. I’m willing to work for a chance because from what I recently experienced nothing is handed to you. My work ethic is unmatched, just looking for a home.”
Feinauer’s parents, especially his mom, Dana, didn’t want Cole to play football. A graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Sacred Heart University, she was a fixture at Cole’s games. He started playing baseball at age 5, says he can get his fastball into the high 80s and gave some thought to playing in college. His dad, John, played semi-pro ball.
“My mom was a big baseball fan,” Cole said.
As she was diagnosed and then fought a courageous battle against cancer, Cole put off any thoughts of football his sophomore year. Dana Feinauer was 51 when she died in June 2019.
“My mom passed and that’s when I decided to start playing,” he said. “My dad was all for it. I joined the team late. I was a baseball player. I was lanky, like 6-5, 240, a pitcher. I hadn’t even thought about playing football in college. There already were two tackles on the team. I didn’t ever play football, so they’re not going to put me in there.”
Feinauer hurt his knee and that cost him a couple of games. When he did get on the field, he noticed he was the tallest guy out there.
“I had a growth spurt,” he said. “I was probably playing 6-7, 250. I ended up starting like five, six games. I guess people really didn’t know what I was doing, but it was a successful year. It was really fun to be part of it. I fell in love with the sport.”
And lifting. As part of their training schedule, the players lifted under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Pat Russo and six of the Rams benched at least 300 pounds at a December competition. That’s an impressive number for any high school team.
“Our team worked so hard,” Feinauer said, “we felt like we were going to dominate. Guys are lifting 350-plus. We were grinding. I gained 50 pounds, ready to show my skills, but sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want.
“The health board didn’t allow us to play games. We practiced probably two months, but had to stay socially distant.”
There were no 7-on-7 nights for Feinauer, no obstacle course races or carrying tires, etc., for the linemen.
“As a team we voted it was useless, just another way to get hurt,” he said. “Tug-of-war, all that stuff wasn’t worth it.”
Feinauer has lifted weights for a little more than 11/2 years. When he started, he couldn’t bench 225. He can do 225 pounds 15 times now and can bench 320.
“It’s a grind,” he said. “I love it, though.”
One of the captains of the basketball team, the one player with real varsity experience, Feinauer did not love what happened in the first half of Cheshire’s opener Feb. 12 at North Haven.
“I’m 6-7, 300, I’m thinking no one in the league can stop me and we’re going undefeated (in SCC Division II),” he said. “I think that was bad karma. First game, I came down on my knee. It tilted in. I felt a little pop. I’m like, ‘Oh, no.’ It was awful. It was the worst experience. My knee blew up the size of a basketball. So many things went through my head.”
He had surgery on his right knee six weeks ago at Connecticut Orthopaedics Surgical Center in Branford.
That March 18 tweet, meanwhile, led an army of schools from various levels to reach out. When you’re 6-7, 300 pounds, everybody wants to kick the tires, even if one of them is patched up. TCU, Indiana, others. UConn offered to make him a preferred walk-on.
“I had to turn off my phone at one point,” said Feinauer, who also considered prep school. “All sorts of coaches were messaging me on my DMs. It did help up a lot.”
— Cole Feinauer (@feinauer) April 7, 2021
Colorado State coach Steve Addazio, previously at Boston College, was the wildly successful Cheshire High coach between 1988-94. Three consecutive state titles, 49 wins in a row, the works. His son Louie, born in 1993, is Colorado State’s offensive line coach.
“We met two years ago in Cheshire, I was a scrawny little boy,” Feinauer said. “We really hadn’t any contact since. A week after I tore my ACL — I had (Louie’s) number in my phone — I called.
“‘I’ve got a torn ACL, but can you do anything for me?’ Can you picture that conversation? The next day he offered me. I felt a lot better. I committed about two weeks after that.”
Preferred walk-ons are guaranteed a spot on the roster, but there is no athletic scholarship. They often get one their second year, but nothing is certain. J.J. Watt, Baker Mayfield, Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson were once preferred walk-ons.
Feinauer is getting some academic aid.
“I wanted to go bigger,” he said. “The full scholarships in the NEC, I didn’t really want to go to the FCS. I’ve been working only a year and a half at this. I’ve already gained all this weight. I’ve gotten so much better. I’m looking to play after college. Over five years, I want to get as big physically as I can.”
After surgery, he began work with a physical trainer.
“I’m up and around, feeling nearly back to normal,” he said.
A redshirt season certainly appears to be in his future. He plans to leave Cheshire for Fort Collins a couple of days after high school graduation to begin training. Those 2019 highlights? He says he hates them. No one, he said, realizes those are from the only seven games he ever played. He has so much to prove.
“I’ve never been anywhere near Colorado,” Cole Feinauer said. “I’m not going to lie, It’s a little bit of a gamble. I’m really excited. I’m kind of a gambling guy. I heard you go out to Colorado and you never want to leave.
“My mom was the biggest supporter in my life. She never wanted me to play football. She went to every one of my games (in other sports). She was always so protective. It was really rough. She was in hospice in our living room. I watched her pass. I think it scarred me.
“I also think it is going to push me a long, long way.”
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