Robin Cole, NFL

by Mike Magers


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Robin Cole was born in Los Angeles, California in 1955 and played football at University of New Mexico from 1973 to 1976.  At UNM, his career statistics rank highly in many categories.  The following are just a few of them.  In career tackles, his 406 tackles place him at 5th, just behind Brian Urlacher, his career sacks at 36 rank him second behind Johnny Jackson.  He is highly ranked in career fumble recoveries, career fumbles caused and also season records for most of these categories.

While at UNM, he played one year under coach Rudy Feldman and the remaining three years under coach Bill Mondt.  The Lobos had one winning season while Cole was playing, but Cole still received notice for his outstanding performance.

Several African-American players who were starters on the 1973 team, including Cole, participated in a boycott over the lack of African-American players on the UNM baseball team under Coach Bob Leigh.  The players were dismissed from the team during the boycott, though Mondt did not cancel their scholarships.  Coach Leigh had dismissed an African-American player from the team.  The students participating in the boycott demanded Leigh’s dismissal as head coach and alleged that he had not given the player a fair chance.  Leigh later stated that the candidate had not played high school baseball, as his parents had stated, and that the parents had made a similar effort to get the student a place on the team at University of Arizona, but had failed (Abilene Reporter-News, April 4, 1974).  The boycott ultimately ended and Cole returned to the team, as did many others and Leigh continued on as head coach until 1976.

Cole was highly regarded in Albuquerque and received many favorable mentions in the local press as he completed his college career.  He was named to an All-America team and was the university’s first NFL first round draft pick, as the 21st player taken in the 1977 draft.  Selected by the Pittsburg Steelers, Cole went on to play 11 seasons for the club (1977-1987), finishing up his fine career with one year with the New York Jets in 1988.  While with the Steelers, he played linebacker and defensive end on some of the finest teams the franchise has known.  The Steelers won 5 division championships, 4 conference championships and 2 Super Bowls during his tenure.  A number of players and coaches from this era have been named to the NFL Hall of Fame.

Cole is the founder of the Obediah Cole Foundation, named for his father, the primary mission of which is to promote education about prostate cancer.  Based in Pittsburg, the foundation is actively involved in efforts to promote greater knowledge of the disease.  Its website states that 5 of 8 sons of Obediah Cole have been diagnosed with the disease.

Cole’s many honors include being an All-Pro selection in 1984 and being named to the Pro Bowl that same year.  He was named to the 20 Year All Western Athletic Conference Team, the Albuquerque Press Hall of Fame and the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in its 1992 class.




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