Cole Okmin, senior wide receiver, on staying healthy and catching the long pass

Cole Okmin, senior wide receiver, on staying healthy and catching the long pass

Okmin dodges a defender in the team’s rivalry matchup against Illinois-Wesleyan (Photo by Noah Orloff | Student Life)

Cole Okmin hasn’t played the most games out of the receiving core — he’s been forced to sit out of a few matchups after breaking a few ribs in the preseason. But when he has been on the field, he’s made an immediate impact. Okmin averaged the most receiving yards per game out of the entire squad with three touchdowns. After the team’s fifth win, the wide receiver sat down with Student Life to discuss his start as a quarterback, being a veteran in a group of young receivers, and rock climbing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Student Life: Tell me about your football background in high school.

Cole Okmin: I’ve played my whole life — starting in 3rd grade, I played quarterback, continuing throughout high school. I had a good buddy a year above me who went to WashU, so he put the idea of ​​WashU into my head. I was pretty set on going to Butler, but then I switched last minute. It was kind of a no-brainer, though, [based on] the quality of [the] school and just getting to play good football. I came in as a quarterback.

SL: When did you make the switch to receiver?

CO: Before my freshman year, I injured my elbow, and I had to get surgery on it. I was like, “Can I just play something else?” because I couldn’t play quarterback. I tried receiver, and it went well, and they were like, “Alright, you’re gonna stay receiver.” I was like, sweet.

SL: Do you ever imagine an alternate timeline of you as a quarterback?

CO: [Current quarterback] Matt Rush is a study. We both came in as quarterbacks — and, obviously, it worked out perfectly.

Okmin is too speedy for Wesleyan, catching a pass from quarterback Matt Rush. (Photo by Noah Orloff | Student Life)

SL: You were recruited by Coach Kindbom, and you’ve seen the program through various iterations, in a way that the freshmen and sophomores haven’t. So, what changes have you seen in the past four years from Coach Kindbom to Coach Keen?

CO: Good question — recruiting-wise, I was in touch with Coach Fisher, the offensive coordinator. But, a lot of the values ​​have stayed the same, and Coach Keen has carried them forward, which was really important to him because he learned them from Coach Kindbom. I think Coach Keen brings a different mindset — obviously, having control of the offense, it’s a little different, with your head coach being your play caller. He’s also emphasized a lot of important things that are gonna get us to a championship level (like putting on weight for the linemen) because we’ve been outsized in the past.

SL: Last year, the team’s record was 7-4. I’m curious — what were your big takeaways from last season, especially in the spring after you had time to sit down and look at what went well?

CO: It’s always nice to get a little downtime. I actually had a lot; I went abroad, so I was really separated from football. I went to Dublin, and honestly, I had a little too much time away from football. After the season, we were pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish, but we knew with the team coming back that we had higher expectations going into this year. We had a lot of returning guys that played significant amounts of time, and our offense was pretty much entirely returning — it was exciting. We had a lot of work ahead of us to do, and I think a lot of people put in a lot of work in the off-season that is showing up in games. The schedule is getting a lot tougher, so we’re gonna see what we’re really made of in the coming weeks versus these tougher opponents.

SL: Coming back, you had a little more downtime. Talk to me about the injury that kept you out of the first few games.

CO: I broke my ribs early on. I’m good now — I’m 100%. On the second day of camp, we weren’t in pads, and I got fallen on. I kept trying to come back; I got to rehab, and I should have been back after that. But I didn’t know [my ribs] were broken and just thought they were bruised. They weren’t getting better at all, so I got them checked out.

SL: Did you feel at all rusty getting back out there?

CO: No, I feel good. I was just ready to go; I was recovering from a hip injury at the end of last season, so I did have to slowly roll into running routes again. But this summer, I felt good running again, and I honestly didn’t feel like I missed a beat.

SL: You’ve seen Matt Rush from day one. What was your first impression of him in the Johnny Davidson era?

CO: Yes. So, early on, I knew that Matt could throw the ball. Once it was clear that [QB1] was his job sophomore year, […] he’s [always] thrown an accurate ball. Obviously, it’s great as a receiver, but I think he’s improved mostly just his understanding of the game and [his ability to read a defense] so much from his first start junior year. It’s made us a much better team because when he goes — I mean — the whole team goes.

SL: Receivers have been a strength of this team, and there are a lot of younger players out there from sophomores Kenneth Hamilton and Collin Goldberg. Do you give them any guidance or advice in high-pressure situations that they haven’t been in before?

CO: [I tell them] just to be them. And to stay calm. They’re such good athletes — they play their game. They’re going to perform against the best teams. No matter if they’re seniors or sophomores, they’re there and they both work their butts off. They’re already kind of veterans, in their own sense. I don’t have to say much to them to get them going.

SL: Outside of football, what are you up to?

CO: The interview process [for post-graduation jobs] is taking up a lot of time. We get some rock climbing in. Spending time with friends, reading some good books, watching some TV shows.

SL: You’re a senior and an older member of the team. I’m curious what you’ll miss when you leave.

CO: Being around the team and the guys. It’s gonna be weird not seeing them every day and not playing football. It sucks to think about [that]. It’s just the little parts of being on the team — just the team trips, morning practices, lifts. Living next to all your best friends is awesome.

SL: And last question: would you rather have fish for hands or adopt a child every time you hear Bohemian Rhapsody?

CO: Adopt a child.

SL: Knowing you’d have to raise it?

CO: Yes, for sure. I feel like I’d rather have kids than fish for hands.

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