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Peterson Commits to Merrimack During a Historic Suspension of High School Sports

Every young athlete has a dream of one day being able to play sports at the collegiate level. For the Bristol native and Bishop Hendricken kicker, Cole Peterson, that dream is about to become a reality.

The graduating Senior will continue his education and athletic career this upcoming fall for the D-1 football program at Merrimack College in Andover, Massachusetts.

Like every successful athlete, their is a moment that defines what could lie ahead. For Cole, it came in his freshmen year when Coach Jon Stringfellow of Bishop Hendricken needed someone to do the kickoff. His teammates all pointed to Cole and then he went to work, his first ever kick-off went all the way down to the 5-yard line. The rest is history.

After his freshmen year Coach Stringfellow told Cole if he worked hard, he could kick for the varsity team one day. The first practice in his sophomore campaign, Coach Croft asked Cole if he would like to be the varsity kicker, and without taking a breath Cole responded yes. Although he did begin playing football until before his Freshman year at Hendricken, football goes far back into the Peterson family. His grandfather, Uncles, and Father all played under legendary RI Coach John Toppa at Rogers High School. His father Andy even spent time as a coach with the D3 program here at Salve Regina.

At the age of 14 Cole was kicking in his first Varsity game in an exhibition again Iona Prep.

“I could see he loved every minute of the game” said Andy Peterson, Cole’s father.

“Cole had been a soccer player when he was younger and I believe all this years of kicking a soccer ball gave him a good base to work from” said Peterson.

Since that moment Cole would never skip a beat, and eventually all of his hard work pay off.

The summer right before his Senior year he was invited to the “Clutch Kicks Camp” which is hosted by the former NFL kicker John Carney. This was the day Cole would see his dreams, become reality.

At the end of the camp he would earn rewards in both kicking and punting. But it was at the end of the day when things got interesting. The offers started to come in and the realization of playing Division 1 College Football was that much closer.

Cole would go on to receive offers from Bridgewater State, Umass Dartmouth, Salve Regina, and Nichols College.

“His dreams of D1 became real when I heard that he was talking to a coach from Merrimack” said Peterson

A Division 1 offer, every kids dream, and in the smallest state. The only thing standing between Cole and playing Division 1 was his senior year.

After speaking with Cole about the challenges of being a student-athlete and the pressure of having a Division 1 offer, continuing to play well, and balancing school work. He went on to tell me;

“Kicking is 80% mental and 20% physical, you have to have a quick memory and can’t let a miss bother your next kick” said Peterson

Peterson also commented on the toll his commitment takes on his school life.

“My days are extremely long, going to school from 8:00-2:30 then having practice from 4-6 can be both physically and mentally draining” said Peterson

Playing football at the Division 1 is quite the jump from RI High School Football. Playing for perennial state championship contender Bishop Hendricken has definitely helped get Cole ready for the next level.

His Senior year was capped off in tremendous fashion, as Hendricken usually does, winning the State Championship.

“We win because we work harder than everyone else. Everyone is pushing each other to get better and our coaches prepare us for every possible situation”. Said Peterson

“I am very happy for Cole, he has worked himself into a college kicker. He faced adversity with us like any kicker does, but it only made him stronger. His progress over the last few seasons was remarkable. I can’t wait to see what he does in college” said Hawks head football Coach Keith Croft

Behind every great success story, their are great sacrifices being made. For the Peterson family, it was the long days and nights. Bristol being a near 45-minute ride from Warwick, would often lead to nights of long Father-Son car rides.

Coles father Andy said “ Some nights I would be driving him home from practice, he would eat dinner in the car so he could finish whatever homework he had left when he get home”. Some nights we wouldn’t get home until 7:30pm”.

The level of commitment for a high school student at almost 12 hour day, 5 days a week and to maintain great grades and compete at the highest level athletically is a testament to Peterson’s drive and determination.

It was awesome to hear his thoughts on his experiences throughout the season. My wife and I are extremely proud of the young man he has become and we know great things await him” said Mr. Peterson

Peterson reflected on his short time left in high school

“The bonds you make with your teammates, coaches and the fans was the best part about playing football at Hendricken” said Peterson

He believes his success and motivation to work hard at Hendricken will be a big part of what helps him to be successful at Merrimack.

When I asked him what made you chose Merrimack he said “My dream was always to play at the Division 1 level. It was a beautiful school that I knew I would succeed in academically. Coach Kroft also helped me to talk to Coach Robbat at Merrimack.”

Peterson would go on to express his gratitude to the coaches who helped him get to where he is today. “ I wouldn’t be where I am now with Coach Croft, Coach Bruce Massarotti and my parents. Coach Bruce was an amazing mentor and I learned so much from him”

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