Growing up on a horse farm in Suffolk, Virginia, Cole Christiansen hardly envisioned playing professional football. But after racking up 275 career tackles at West Point, he is squarely on the NFL radar. Get to know the two-time Army captain who registered six games of double-digit tackles in 2019.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? When did you begin playing football and when did you realize that you have a passion for the game of football?
I grew up on a horse farm in Suffolk, VA and I began playing football in the third grade. My father played football and told me that I could keep playing in college and the pros, and if given the opportunity, it would be the greatest experience of my life. After a year of Pop Warner, I was hooked and knew I wanted to play at the highest level I could.
When a NFL scout pops in your game film, what type of player should they expect to see?
NFL scouts should expect to see a guy who plays with maximum effort every single play. Regardless of where the ball is on the field, I always strive to get my hat on the ball carrier and make a difference. I believe the play is not over until the whistle blows and a game isn’t over until the sound of the final horn and I always do everything in my power to obtain victory.
What was your offseason like heading into 2019? What areas of your game did you work on to improve upon?
My offseason going into this year was intense and fast-paced because of the time constraints we have here at West Point. We have military training obligations that occupy a significant portion of the offseason, so our approach to football training is aggressive. I worked specifically to improve upon my drops and my ability to cover in space moving backwards. This is not something I am asked to do that often in our defense, but it is something I looked to improve because I know how critical it is in today’s game. I also looked to improve my pass-rush techniques once I reach the second level.
What type of leadership intangibles do you bring to the table? Explain your leadership style.
If there is one thing West Point provides it is a superior leadership development program. I have trained to become an officer in the United States Army for four years and have commanded multiple cadet companies of 120-plus soldiers. I am also a two-year captain on the football team and have had the privilege to be a leader of leaders. My teammates are the best leaders I have ever met, so it has been a tremendous experience for me to lead them onto the field. My leadership style is continuously evolving but I will always value every individual in the organization. I strive to be approachable and likeable but am firm when necessary. It has been interesting leading in military environments with a chain of command and transitioning to a football team of direct peers. I have learned that you cannot use the same leadership techniques on everyone because everyone perceives what you say differently. It is always my goal to have gravity and inspire trust when I speak and through my actions.
Name a point during your college career when you had to overcome adversity. What did you learn from that experience?
I have experienced the deaths of five classmates since I have been at West Point. Several from training accidents, one suicide and a teammate of mine was killed in a car crash. I had not experienced death before I got here and it was traumatic to have so much in such a short time. I learned from their deaths however, how quickly an organization can rally or crumble. Fortunately, I saw my team and my institution come so close to each other and accomplish more than any of us thought possible. Through hardship, there is growth; and through shared hardship, there are bonds formed that last forever.
What was it like growing up in your hometown? Did you live any other places?
I had a great childhood and cannot thank my parents enough for their sacrifices. My sisters and I grew up on a horse farm with over 100 horses and learned to work and appreciate hard work. Living there was really the best of two worlds because we had the rural ranch life at home and the beach just 30 minutes away. I spent much of my time at Virginia Beach and Norfolk growing up on the water.
Who has been the toughest opponent you have faced thus far in your career, either overall team or an individual? How did you fare?
The toughest team I have faced so far was Ohio State my sophomore year. We played them well in the first half with the score 14-7, but they pulled away from us in the end. Oklahoma and Michigan were also great opponents and we took both to double overtime but couldn’t find victory in either game, unfortunately.
What is something people might not know about you or something that separates you from other players?
Something that separates me from other players is my experience leading large organizations and my understanding of the importance of winning. We are taught at West Point and in the Army that in war you either win, or you die. I apply that in everything I do and will always lead my troops or teammates with a fierce winning mentality. I believe I am a good player but most importantly I know how to lead and win.
If you could bring one teammate with you, who would you bring?
I would bring Elijah Riley my co-captain and cornerback. He is a fantastic athlete and an exemplary leader. I loved sharing the field with him and because of his drive and toughness I would gladly share a foxhole with him any day as well.
*The ninth annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be held on Saturday, January 18th at the historic Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. Be sure to tune in on NFL Network at 4 p.m. PST/7 p.m. EST!