Everywhere he’s turned, Cole McCoy has spotted examples of seizing opportunities.
That goes for on the football field, where the undersized Cumberland Valley senior blossomed into a two-way star for an Eagles team that, on Saturday, is playing in a third straight District 3 championship game.
It goes for the hallways at CV, where McCoy followed in the literal footsteps of sports legends like his uncle, Neil McCoy, a Hall of Fame wrestler from the Class of 1992, or Mike Frenette, a football star who last decade converted his unexpected chance at running back into one heck of a career.
And it certainly goes for the Middlesex Twp. home he shares with his dad, Jon McCoy, who, after two-plus decades in the welding business, decided last year to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer.
So it’s no surprise that when opportunity presented itself to Cole McCoy, the 5-foot-9 (maybe), 165-pound cornerback/running back snatched it and never let go.
“You never know when opportunity’s going to call, and he’s taken advantage of his opportunities,” said CV head coach Mike Whitehead, whose Eagles (10-2) battle Manheim Twp. at 6 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium for the Class 6A title.
Whitehead, a Cumberland Valley guy who was a longtime assistant coach before seizing his own head-coaching opportunity in 2013 after Tim Rimpfel retired, loves sharing the story of Frenette with his players.
The 2009 grad wasn’t considered an option at halfback when injuries forced the coaching staff to ask for volunteers. He surged to the front of the line, took the ball and turned it into a productive career at CV and then Shippensburg University.
Similarly, though without the injures, McCoy eased into his opportunities on varsity last year, first as a cornerback, then at the versatile z-back in the Eagles’ wicked Wing-T offense.
At his size, he was far from a sure thing. But in two seasons as a starter, he’s been nothing short of fantastic.
Last year he picked off three passes and totaled 42 tackles to go along with 400 yards of offense and four touchdowns.
This year, he boasts two interceptions and 36 tackles and is nearing 700 yards of offense with seven scores.
McCoy was just named a second-team Mid-Penn Commonwealth defensive back, and he recently committed to continuing his athletic and academic careers (with a partial Junior ROTC scholarship) to nearby Dickinson College.
“Everybody around here, we play for each other,” McCoy said from practice this week. “You just never know when your name’s going to get called and when the play’s going to you, so you just got to be ready all the time.”
Determined and focused
Like his older brother Neil, Jon McCoy’s first athletic love was wrestling, though he competed at Carlisle High School (Class of 1997) instead of CV.
Meanwhile, Jon’s dad had started a family welding business, Cumberland Valley Welding, in 1991.
After a stint in the military, and with two young boys (Dylan, now 20, and Cole), Jon joined the family business early into adulthood instead of chasing his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer.
That finally changed when the family decided to close shop in April 2016. Jon boldly entered the police academy, where he was decidedly older than the other recruits, and he graduated last November.
He’s now celebrating his one-year anniversary as a patrol officer in Middlesex Twp.
“I wish I would have done it 20 years ago, but I don’t know if I’d be as good at it as I am now,” Jon McCoy said. “A little bit of life experience helps.”
Said Cole, who also has a 12-year-old sister and 8-year-old brother in addition to older brother Dylan: “I’m happy for him because he comes home every day and says he loves it. There’s something different he works on every day.”
But who inspired whom?
To hear dad tell it, Cole’s independence and work ethic is off the charts. Undoubtedly that played a role in Jon’s pursuit of his dream, no?
“Kid could have moved out when he was 13 years old and been fine,” said Jon, who says Cole would pack his own bags for wrestling tournaments starting at 8 or 9 years old, has been doing his own laundry since 10 and never needs a lecture about cleaning his room.
“He’s very self-sufficient. Don’t know if he’s ever really come to me to ask for help. And anytime I ask him for help, he’s there. He’s the best kid a dad could ask for.”
Jon and Cole’s mom, Jennifer, split up several years ago, and the older boys ultimately got to choose their school district.
Dylan, also a wrestler and football player, went to Boiling Springs and enjoyed success with the Bubblers. Cole, after growing up in the East Pennsboro School District, decided to chase the goal of being a big fish in the biggest pond.
Boiling Springs certainly wanted him for his wrestling pedigree, but Cole soon discovered that, as talented as he is on the mat — he’s expected to compete for district and state titles as a middleweight this winter — his first love was football.
And if you can make it at CV, you can make it anywhere.
“In my opinion, he is by far a better wrestler,” said Jon, who coached Cole in wrestling for a decade. “He has some of the best hips I’ve ever seen in wrestling. But when it comes to football, that’s where his passion is. And I’ve never seen a kid run as hard as he does. He’s, like, possessed when he gets the ball.”
To ask Cole what drives him, it’s almost like a trick question. The true answer, it seems, is intuitive. Though he also credits family.
“My parents are my biggest thing,” he said. “I want to make them proud to see that I’m excelling in something.”
Excelling at CV is a birthright, even for those not born there.
In McCoy’s three seasons dressing varsity, the Eagles are 32-9 with three district title trips. This season marked their 28th playoff appearance, and the 13 titles rank second in the district with Bishop McDevitt behind Manheim Central’s 16.
“We don’t like losing, and I don’t like losing either, football or wrestling,” he said. “That’s what drives me to keep on going.”
That drive is what’s led to success in seizing those opportunities when they’re available. Demand to be noticed. Make it “hard to keep off the field,” as Whitehead described him.
“You’ll have to drag him off the field,” Jon said of his son. “He’ll give you everything he’s got. And I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a B [on his report card]. Everything comes so easy for him, or that’s the way it looks from the outside. But the kid busts his [butt]. And it’s not like I’ve ever had to push him to do it.”