Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Brookwood senior Jamaal Cole has rushed for 913 yards and 13 touchdowns this season as the Broncos' feature back. He has been a key member of the team's backfield since his sophomore season.
THE COLE FILE
Who: Jamaal Cole
Position: Running back
Favorite TV show: Anything on ESPN
Favorite athlete: Robert Griffin III
Dream job: Music producer
-- Scored touchdown his first varsity carry
-- Has rushed for 913 yards on 145 carries this season
-- Varsity basketball player
SNELLVILLE -- One of the first things Mark Crews said about Jamaal Cole didn't revolve around his speed or toughness.
"He's got a lot of savvy," the Brookwood head coach said. "He picks things up really quickly."
Crews was talking mostly of the senior running back's on-field abilities, but Cole carries that learn-by-watching to all parts of his day.
For two years he watched Nick Tompkins, a teammate now playing for Michigan State. He watched Tompkins' demeanor and his energy.
He borrowed it.
"I learned a lot from Nick. He taught me to never give up on a football game," Cole said. "Like Parkview last year, before the kick he looked at me and said, 'Jamaal, you are going to get it and run it back.' But he got it and ran it back."
Growing up he watched his older brother, Jerome, hurt his progress with consistent troubles.
He dismissed it.
"He would always get in trouble a lot. I learned to not do what he did," Cole said. "I just showed by my actions."
Cole tries to be humble despite his station as the starting running back for Brookwood, a position with a long and proud lineage. But the humility doesn't keep him from setting high standards.
Cole knew he would play an increased role this season after two seasons watching and working with Tompkins and even through his "I just want to help the team" outward stance set personal goals for his season. He wanted to rush for between 100 and 150 yards a game and he wanted to score at least twice on Friday night. Through eight games, Cole is averaging 114 yards a game and 1.8 touchdowns. Those numbers fall just shy of his expectations and combined with a record dotted with a few imperfections, Cole isn't totally happy with his season so far.
"I have been happy, but not completely satisfied," Cole said.
And why would he be? As a sophomore, Cole was the change-of-pace, punctuation mark on Brookwood's state championship team. He knows the feeling of a championship and it's a feeling he seeks again and again.
Cole grew up in the Brookwood area and began playing football, always a running back, for Brookwood when the rest of his friends did, age 6.
"I was just an athlete," he said. "I just stayed on the field."
He left for one season, but at his urging, his parents allowed him to return to his friends the following year and a youth championship followed. But his history in the Brookwood area gives Cole the perspective to appreciate his role and his position within the narrative of the Broncos.
"I know Brookwood has had a lot running backs come through, a lot of talent," Cole said. "For my name to be classified with that is good. I get nervous a lot, but I just have to go out there and do what I have to do. Just knowing that I play for Brookwood and my team depends on me."
"Jamaal is the tailback now," Crews said. "He's the lone guy."
The lone guy is new for Cole, but making a big impact isn't. Crews still remembers the first time he called Cole's number.
"First time he touched the ball as a varsity player he went 60 yards for a touchdown," Crews said. "The first time he touched it."