Johnnie Cole’s Quest To Bring A Winner To Lane College

By Joe Booker
Updated: September 7, 2006

HOUSTON — Former Texas Southern University quarterback Johnny Cole is going into his second year as head football coach at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee.

The first year was not too kind to Cole. He hopes that his second year will be a charm as he tries to bring a winner to Lane College.

As the late Tennessee State Coach John Merritt once told his quarterback Eldridge Dickey in Dickey’s first year in the NFL—“you have to bear the cross before you can wear the crown.” Cole has bearer the cross. He hopes he can wear the crown this season.

“We have not had a winning season since I came here, so I’m looking to go out with a bang,” said Cole, whose Dragons finished 0-9 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) last season.

Off to a good start

Cole has his Dragons on a 3-0 roll. It’s the most wins in three seasons.

When Cole took the job last year he promised Lane President Wesley McClure the game ball from their first win. After beating Lincoln 36-0 in their season opener, Cole made good on his promise—but at an unusual hour. McClure was waiting for the team bus when the bus arrived from Jefferson City, Mo., at 2:a.m.

Last week, the Dragons won their second straight game when they defeated Saint Augustine 20-16 in their home opener. It’s the best start for the Dragons in recent memory.

Tough Conference

The difficult you do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer. For Cole’s Dragons, it may take a little longer. Lane plays in a conference that has national powerhouses Tuskegee and Albany State.

Both Tuskegee and Albany are expected to battle for the SIAC crown for the third year in a row. For Cole and his Dragons, finishing somewhere in the middle would make Dragons faithful happy.

Passing game will be a key to Lane’s success

Last season the Dragons had the second best—217 yards per game—passing attack in the SIAC. They return two NFL prospects—Jacoby Jones and Edward Williams—at wide receiver. Jones, a 6-4, 205 senior is coming off a 50-catch, 587 yard season.

Williams, a 6-4, 215 pound wide receiver, caught 42 passes for 629 yards. Sophomore quarterback Sherard Ellis, a former Willowridge star, returns as the starting quarterback. He threw for 1932 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, 2nd best in the conference. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 580 yards.

“It will be tough for anyone to match up with us man-to-man and do it all games and do it effectively”, Cole said. Jones was impressive in the Dragons 36-0 win over Lincoln. He caught 10 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a touchdown.

Receivers drawing NFL Scouts

Lane College is not one of the places NFL scouts usually go looking for talent. This year is special. Lane has two players that have caused several scouts to invade the Jackson, Tennessee campus.

“What brought me here is the fact they have height, weight and speed for their position,” said Arizona Cardinals’ scout Jerry Hardaway.

On Thursday, Cole’s Dragons played their third straight game on the road. They traveled to Morehouse and defeated the Maroon Tigers 48-31 to avenge last year’s 52-37 loss.

It’s Lane’s first victory against Morehouse since 1998.