The story behind Alfred and
A.J. Cole’s meaningful
father-son selfie tradition
By Eddie Paskal Cheese
we’ve had the warmup kicks, usually it’s just a quick slap five,
and then alright, let’s do the selfie, and then, ‘good luck, you’re
going to do great.’”
But, as is the case with all streaks, there was an understanding
that it would end at some point, and following a rough outing
against Marshall his senior year, A.J. decided it was time to hang
up his cleats and start looking for a real job, thus ending the
streak at 53.
In fact, the younger Cole was so determined on starting down
a new path that he spent the wee hours of the morning after
that game applying for jobs, ultimately being offered and then
accepting a job with IBM working in tech procurement.
He accepted the job in November with a January start date on
the horizon, but then – as is the case with many of these stories –
A.J. got a phone call that would change his life.
“We were at graduation, and he gets a call from the guy that runs
the East-West Shrine Game, who said, ‘Listen, we think you’re one
of the best college punters, we want to extend you an invitation to
play in the East-West Shrine game,’“ Alfred recounted.
Following that call, the family quickly started interviewing
agents — just to be on the safe side — as A.J. prepared for his
outing at Tropicana Field.
From there, things moved quickly for Cole.
After going undrafted, he earned a tryout with the Silver and
Black at rookie mini-camp, then signed a deal following the
three-day tryout, and once A.J.’s parents realized he’d likely
make it through the summer and into the preseason, they got to
“When he actually joined the roster, we made plans to go to all
four of the preseason games – even the one in Winnipeg,” Alfred
said. “We said, we’re going to go to all of them, because he’s made
it this far, he’s against the odds, he went to rookie minicamp with no
contract… We’re just going to go to all four of the preseason games
because they’re probably the only time he’s ever going to get to play,
so we had made arrangements for that. We were excited about that.”
And as was tradition, at each stop along the way, the Cole’s took
their pregame selfie.
“My sister and brother-in-law, and my best friend, and his wife,
two of A.J.’s best friends from high school, we went to that first
game in Oakland,” Alfred explained. “We all went because we
were like, this could be A.J.’s only game that he gets to play in,
and we want to see him play.”
But, after the team waived Johnny Townsend on August 13, it
became clear that A.J.’s career in the pros — and the streak as
well — would live on a little longer than anyone in the Cole family
Even then, A.J. wasn’t counting his proverbial chickens before
they hatched, as he stayed in constant communication with IBM,
keeping them in the loop of his developing situation as an NFL
punter, and routinely pushing back his start date.
The would-be IBM employee and his hiring manager finally
decided on a September 3 start date, but a few days before he