The NFL scouts came to the Worcester, Mass., campus of Assumption College to check out a Greyhounds wide receiver. They stayed because of the kicker.
But as they told it to Assumption coach Bob Chesney, there was just one thing that was going to scare teams away from giving Cole Tracy a chance.
No matter how big his leg was, kicking in front of crowds at Division II Assumption wasn’t a proving ground for an NFL stadium. Sure, the Greyhounds were a playoff team and they drew good crowds for a small school. But an audience of 2,000 in a stadium with a forest 30 yards beyond the end zone wasn’t seen as an accurate gauge of how a rookie would fare at, say, Arrowhead Stadium on a Monday night.
“A concern for them was ‘Has he kicked in front of big crowds?'” Chesney said. “So he decided to exercise his fifth year. Oklahoma State and LSU flew him out the next week. I did not hold him back.”
Tracy, who is completing his degree at Assumption this semester, will join the Tigers as a graduate transfer. He redshirted his freshman year after signing with Assumption as an undersized, under-recruited prospect from California.
“His technique was good,” Chesney said. “But he was a smaller guy.”
He bulked up to 190 pounds and took off, earning Division II All-America honors his redshirt freshman season.
“That redshirt year certainly paid dividends,” Chesney said. “He took the weight training very seriously.”
Chesney said the weight room is where Tracy differentiates himself from many kickers.
“He doesn’t do kicker lifts. He lifts with the team,” Chesney said. “He does squats and lifts. If you do everything with the team, then you miss that kick and it’s the team that missed the kick. It’s not the kicker that missed it. You never isolated yourself. That’s something that impressed me with Cole.”
Fortunately, neither Tracy nor the team missed many kicks. He nailed 27 of 29 field goals this season, including a long of 53. He also hit all 67 of his extra-point attempts for the Greyhounds’ powerful offense.
That’s a stark contrast to LSU’s kicking woes in 2017.
Connor Culp and Jack Gonsoulin were a combined 16 for 27 on field-goal attempts and 40 for 43 on extra-point tries. Ultimately, that’s why LSU is using one of its 25 precious scholarships in the 2018 class on the small-school kicker with a big leg.
Chesney, who was hired by FCS Holy Cross last month, believes his old kicker will succeed on the bigger stage for a multitude of reasons.
“I haven’t seen him really rattled ever,” Chesney said. “I know it’s not 100,000 people, but we crank up the volume at the end of practice. It’s just the long snapper and him and the whole team within a 5-yard radius.
“He’s got to make a game-winning kick, or the whole team has to run. He does a really good job of internalizing that. He’s practiced that a bunch of times. I think he can block it out.”
Chesney is convinced that the SEC is not the last stop in Tracy’s career — just the next stop.
“He is that good.”