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Q&A with Nevada tight end Cole Turner on turning pro and chasing the NFL dream

Cole Turner
Cole Turner celebrates a touchdown during Nevada's game against Air Force this season. (David Calvert/Nevada athletics)

Cole Turner just played his final regular-season game in a Nevada jersey, capping one of the best tight end careers in program history. Turner, who moved from receiver to tight end last season, set career highs in catches (62), receiving yards (677) and touchdowns (10) in 2021, all single-season bests for a Wolf Pack tight end. Undecided on whether he'll play in a bowl game or start preparing for the NFL draft, Turner has racked up 117 catches for 1,370 yards and 20 touchdowns in his career, all the most for a Nevada tight end in program history. As a result of Turner's successful career with the Wolf Pack, he is the Nevada Sports Net Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for November, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet.

You can watch our full interview with Cole Turner below, or check out our Q&A underneath that.

Q&A with Cole Turner

NSN: Can you believe that your career at Nevada is winding down here? It's got to be hard to kind of put into words, but you just finished the regular season taking on Colorado State and obviously a great way for you guys to finish the season in Fort Collins.

Cole Turner: It's been a long season, but it feels so short now. Looking back, I wish it wasn't over. But at the end of the day, we finished the season on a really high note, so that was a good way to go out.

NSN: What was the turning point in your career because you were a guy who spent your first two years here and you didn't get a lot of playing time? Obviously, it's easy to point to the switch from wide receiver to tight end. But was there something that clicked where you went from just a player on the roster to one of the best players in the Mountain West?

CT: I think I always had the physical ability, and it was kind of just more of a mental barrier getting past that. Once I kind of got a little bit of confidence and I had that first game (of the 2020 season) against Wyoming where I had a taste of it (seven catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns), that was all I ever needed once I touched it and felt it. I knew that from there on I could do this week in and week out. So my teammates were always supporting me, and the coaches always had high expectations for me coming in. And luckily I had the same coaches the whole time. They kept believing in me, and they always kept trusting me even through the rough times my first couple of years. So I'm thankful for that.

NSN: We need to talk about the goal line deal because any time you guys are within 5 yards, it's pretty much automatic. Carson (Strong) is going to try to go to you, and I don't know what the percentage success rate of that play was, but it's probably like 90 percent when they go to that goal-line fade. How much confidence do you guys have in that?

CT: I think Coach (Matt) Mumme ran the test, and it's, like, 83 percent over the past two years. So it's a pretty high statistic. But definitely we get down there, I don't think it's a secret to anyone what we're trying to do. The other team knows what's coming, and we know what we want to do. We I love it. I love having the opportunity to score a touchdown, and I'm happy that I have a quarterback that wants to throw a touchdown every time he's down there, too. As long as Carson keeps giving me the opportunity, I feel like if we had four downs and gave me four chances, I'm either going to come down with one or we'll get a pass interference. So it's a pretty good play. And I've been doing it for a long time, ever since I was a little kid, I've always been running those, and I think it's something that's a backyard type of play where you're just playing against your friends, you guys are just throwing up the ball on the goal line. So, it's just a continuation of just doing it so many times.

NSN: Talking about Carson Strong there, you two and Romeo Doubs have not only been teammates but been roommates for the last four years. What is your relationship like off the field as well? And how special has it been to go through this journey of four years roommates together as roommates because it's not very often where you have a star quarterback, wide receiver and tight end kind of grow up together.

CT: That's exactly it. We definitely have grown up together spending four years of your life from the time you're 18 to 21, 22 years old. Those are pretty pivotal years in your life. So we've spent every single one together. I never had any brothers. I know Carson doesn't have any brothers. Romeo's got a couple. They really feel like my brothers. And without them, I definitely wouldn't be in the spot that I am now. I'm lucky. I feel like you embody the kind of people you're around and want to become. I think for all of us it's helped out our careers being together so long. It's easy when you're around a guy just in the house in the summer to be, like, "Let's go. Let's go throw the ball around." If maybe one of us doesn't feel like it, there's another to pick each other up. So I'm lucky to have them, for sure.

NSN: Give us some insight into the level of work you guys have put into together over the year.

CT: The summers are definitely the big time where we got a lot of time in, and the winter. Going out when other guys didn't want to, even there would be days when it was just us three. And sometimes you've got to be OK with that. You've got to be able to want to do those things because those little things always put you on the top in the end, and it wasn't even just going out all the time. Sometimes it's just talking about the game, sitting there and talking to Carson about what happened in the game. What do you see? What did I see? What do we think we can do better? With me, Carson and Romeo, I feel like our three skill-sets all complement each other well, too, so I feel like that on top of it, we're all guys who do different things, so it works out that we're all roommates, too, and we all get along so well. We never really fight. We never have been in a fight. We've never once argued about things around the house, either. So, we were definitely a good combination.

NSN: You've never argued about targets?

CT: No, never.

NSN: Carson told me that if there's one guy who's going to say, 'Give me the ball' more than anybody else among his receivers, tight ends, it's you.

CT: That's definitely me. It's definitely me. I don't tell him to throw me the ball when I'm open, but I'm saying, "If it's a one-on-one matchup, come to me." You've got to have that mindset that you always want the ball. I think that kind of makes the difference. Carson feels like he can make any throw and run, feels like he can run by anyone. You've got to have that mindset, you know? So I think it's a good thing when you have a receiver that tells you that — "Throw me the ball" — because then you know that he wants it.

NSN: You were picked as the second-team All-Mountain West tight end even though you've got 10 touchdowns on the season, vastly more than a guy that was picked in front of you, Trey McBride at Colorado State. Does something like that kind of add to that chip on your shoulder of just there's more motivation to prove that you were the best tight end in the Mountain West this season?

CT: Of course you always want to be recognized for the work you feel like you put in, but at the end of the day, Trey's not only a great player, but he's a great guy, too. We're going to spend a lot of time together over the next couple of weeks between the Senior Bowl and (NFL) Combine, so I'm not upset that he got it. He had an amazing season. I don't know how many tight ends in history have put up over 1,000, but he's definitely worthy of first team and all the accolades he's getting, and he's very humble on top of it. I'm glad if I lose out, it's to someone like him. But I think at the end of the day, I always want to prove that I'm the best at everything. I want to prove that I'm not one of the best tight ends, I'm one of the best players in college football. So it's tough. We can always add to the chip on my shoulder, for sure. I feel like I'm a guy that's kind of flown under the radar in general ever since I started playing sports, o it's nothing new to me.

NSN: It's hard to fly under the radar at 6-foot-6. So you are technically a senior, but you do have an additional year of eligibility if you did want to come back to Nevada next year. You have opted to turn pro and were invited to the Senior Bowl a couple of weeks ago. That's the top bowl game for these pro prospects. What are you just thinking right now being on the cusp of getting into the NFL? That's something you probably dreamed about, but maybe didn't think it was super realistic as a young kid. Now that you're that close to the dream and potentially being drafted, what are you feeling to kind of cement things, put it over the top and make sure you do hear your name called in April?

CT: Like you said, it's something you always dream and think about, but you never really know until you get close, and then you start hearing people talk about it and more and more. Nothing's guaranteed yet. So I still have a lot to prove and a lot to show. Show people that I have what it takes to play there and not only play but stay in the NFL. The hardest part isn't getting there. They say the hardest part is staying there. So I think that's the biggest thing. I want to be an impact player. And I'm blessed to be in the position I'm in. So many people have helped me out along the way, and I'm super lucky to have a coach like head coach Jay Norvell, who believed in me and came to my high school and told me when I was in high school that he thought I could do all the things that I'm doing now. So having people who believe in you go a long way, and I'm lucky to have someone like Coach Norvell, who has helped me along the way.

NSN: Once the season ends and you get through the bowl game, what's that next step, that next preparation leading up to the Senior Bowl? How will you be spending the next few months getting yourself ready for the NFL?

CT: I'll be training and getting ready for the Senior Bowl. That's my first goal, of course, is I want to play and perform as well as I can there just because it's a great opportunity. You're competing against some of the best players in the country. So I can't wait to play against guys who I have never played against, guys that have gone to Alabama and Georgia and those kind of players and see how I stack up. I think everyone looks forward to those kind of moments, so especially being a guy from a smaller school, that puts an even bigger chip on my shoulder. I want to do well not just for myself and not just for university, but for the conference and for my friends back home and for my family. So I'm really looking forward to that opportunity.

NSN: I'm sure the questions about your hair get annoying, but I don't have any, and my hair was long like yours in college. I'm just curious if the color on the bottom is natural?

CT: No, that's not natural. My younger sister, shout out to her. My younger sister Brooklyn does it for me, and I really appreciate it. I have two sisters, a younger sister, Jordan, who's in the process of becoming a history teacher. She goes to Marquette University, and then a sister who's a senior in high school who's getting ready to graduate, and we all have the exact same degree.

NSN: That's a lot to shove into a helmet, so we were kind of chatting off screen that there might be an end to the hair?

CT: Definitely not an end. It definitely is time for a little trim. Just a little trim. I've got to get all the dead hair out, so trim out the color for now and then restart. I remember I got a haircut right before COVID started. When COVID first really started, that was the last time I went to a barber and got a haircut.

For previous Wolf Pack Athletes of the Month Q&As, click here.

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