Following Cole Madison's Year-Long Journey

In today's article, I will revisit Cole Madison's year-long journey back to football and reiterate my stance on how I believe his example should be followed in NFL circles. 

Writing The Next Chapter of His Story:  

In an offseason filled with angst, drama, and endless debate over who the Packers will take with their 12th and 30th picks, I wanted to take a break from the toxic Packers news cycle and talk about the journey Cole Madison has been on over the past fifteen months.  

This heartbreaking saga began with his best friend, Tyler Hilinski, tragically taking his own life in January of 2018.  After Hilinski's suicide, Madison went through workouts and pro days and was selected in the fifth round by the Packers.  

He reported to and completed rookie minicamp last spring but decided to step away from football in the month between minicamp and training camp to tend to his mental health.

When Madison stepped away from the game last summer many believed he would never play again.  Cole was in a tough spot as he tried to grieve the death of his best friend and the circumstances surrounding it as well as decide whether it was feasible for him to continue playing football because of an increased risk to develop CTE.  

Somewhere in the peace and solitude of the past year, Madison developed an inner strength and an ability to find the proper outlets and coping mechanisms to move forward with the next chapter of his life the way his best friend Tyler's family would want him to.

By stepping away from the game he loved to tend to his mental health, Madison paid homage to his fallen friend by making sure he would able to be present in the lives of his family, friends, and teammates moving forward.  He epitomized what true strength and courage looks like by stepping away from the sport he loved to care for himself and seek help.   

Less than a year after stepping away from football Madison finds himself in a more stable and positive frame of mind and is able to find a place for football in his life again.  Madison's story serves as a triumphant moment in the fight for NFL players serving as advocates for their own mental health and wellbeing.

Saying his story is triumphant solely because of his return to the football field would be losing focus of the entirety of Cole's year-long journey.  Yes, returning to football is an important milestone in his triumph, but only encapsulates a small piece of his journey.  His return to the Packers shows he is in a place where he can compartmentalize and prioritize what is most important in his life, which is the true victory in this story.  

Madison's return shows his ability to separate Cole the football player from the Cole the human being and family man, which is increasingly difficult to do in this modern NFL culture.  

In the grand scheme of things, Madison's advocacy for his mental health defines the mission statement of Tyler's family's foundation, Hilinski's Hope.  His decision to step away from the Packers to confront his grief and reservations about playing football will now allow him to lead a purpose driven life and obtain a feeling of inner peace.

Seeing Cole Madison wearing the green and gold, competing in the trenches will encapsulate football in its purest form which will be a welcomed site in an offseason full of drama and negative publicity.  When Cole Madison steps onto the field I will be cheering, supporting, and celebrating him for his incredible journey, realizing the best is yet to come.  

Personally, I am excited for Cole to author this next chapter of his life story and resume his career in professional football.

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Comments (37)

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albert999's picture

April 10, 2019 at 04:33 pm

Very nice article and I wish him the best and hope continues in a healthy and positive way.

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carlos's picture

April 10, 2019 at 10:00 pm

My sentiments exactly. Will hope for his continued progress as a Packer and a human being who has endured so much. Prayers to him and success in all endeavors he applies himself to.

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Leatherhead's picture

April 10, 2019 at 04:34 pm

I hope the best for him, of course. Lombardi said to the effect of champions get knocked down....but they get back up. He's had some great misfortune befall him and there's a lot of people in that club. But his choices are to get up and fight or lay down and quit.

Time, as always, will tell.

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carlos's picture

April 10, 2019 at 10:01 pm

Well said Old School.

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carlos's picture

April 10, 2019 at 10:08 pm

I lost a friend in early May just close to a year ago to similar circumstances. The shock alone is devastating and the feelings you have for a long time after. You always wonder if you could’ve done something.

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dobber's picture

April 11, 2019 at 07:07 am

"Lombardi said to the effect of champions get knocked down....but they get back up."

I thought that was Chumbawumba.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

April 10, 2019 at 04:46 pm

Good luck to the kid. Wish him the best.

Skip

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Johnblood27's picture

April 10, 2019 at 04:50 pm

Best friends suicide
His gun was used
closeness of football teammates
CTE as a factor
Family grieving
Professional football career
new teammates

The journey is complex for this young man.

I wish him the absolute best for himself whatever that may be. It is his decision.

I hope he chooses to go where his passion for excellence takes him.

Mitakuye Oyasin - We are all related.

Once a Coug, Always a Coug.

WSU is a special place out on the Palouse, I loved my time there and my connections to Eastern Washington run deep.

All the best to Cole.

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Bearmeat's picture

April 10, 2019 at 05:52 pm

I'd love to hear Cole talk about his journey and what mental health means to him. He could be an excellent spokesman for the cause. But only if he wants to. I do not want to pry.

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MarkinMadison's picture

April 10, 2019 at 05:57 pm

I agree, but he probably needs to lay low and focus this year. Making the team will be hard enough.

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Bearmeat's picture

April 11, 2019 at 07:30 am

Well, if he wants the best chance to make the team, yeah. I'm just saying, that someone like Chris Borland has had a big impact - one the NFL doesn't necessarily like. Cole could have perhaps an even bigger impact if he is well spoken and chose to go that route.

Again though, it's 100% his choice. I would be mad if reporters wouldn't leave me alone about it and I didn't want to share what I went through.

PS: I didn't realize what I said was so polemical. I feel downvoted like the Skip/Cow/Trumps/Dash guy. ;)

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dobber's picture

April 11, 2019 at 07:48 am

I think you and Mark are right: there's going to be a long road for Madison to make the 53. His athleticism and ability to play on the move (at least according to the scouting reports) may give him a leg up in the current offense, but he's going to be coming into a camp where the Packers are likely to add at least one if not more draft picks on the OL and just signed a player to (presumptively) play the position they drafted Madison to play. His rookie camp last year really did little more than introduce him to NFL training as that play book is now out the window. His ability to play RT in a pinch will be an asset, though. It's a feel good story, but I would argue his chances of making the team are only so-so.

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holmesmd's picture

April 10, 2019 at 06:22 pm

So much to deal with for this young man! I really wish him well. He must tap into a passion to play the game that is sadly indelibly connected to a horrific tragedy. That ain’t easy work to do for a 50yr old much less a 20 something. I hope he can give it all context and absolutely kick ass! Obviously helps the team but my wish for his success is primarily for him! What an uplifting story he could be for so many in similar pain and Packer Nation! Praying for you Cole!! Kick ass brother.

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4thand1's picture

April 10, 2019 at 06:52 pm

We will see more of this in the future. Linemen bash heads the whole game and concussions are frequent in the trenches. The money is the lure and players are willing to risk long term health. Hard to say how he will handle his 1st concussion, but the odds are he will get more than one. Hope he has a long healthy career and turns out to be a great Packer.

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4EVER's picture

April 10, 2019 at 07:32 pm

The Elephant in the room...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 11, 2019 at 03:38 am

Very true. I have no way to know the exact reason or reasons for Madison not reporting last year, or the proportions. If Madison becomes a player, I probably always will at least consider the possibility that he might retire early should he sustain a serious concussion.

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NickPerry's picture

April 10, 2019 at 07:24 pm

Talk about a guy you want to pull for. Not only that it's refreshing to read after a week of DRAMA. Not even Dash can tear this guy or story down.

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NJMagic's picture

April 10, 2019 at 10:08 pm

Give Dash a moment. He's inventive. He'll find a way.

But it will be that it was all Ted's fault for telling Gutey to draft Cole and somehow Aaron is probably to blame for being a diva and not mentoring the young man enough so therefore this whole season will be a bust and the first of a return to the dark days of Packers football and sunlight or a Lombardi trophy will never again grace Lambeau Field. #Dash#winteriscoming

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

April 10, 2019 at 07:45 pm

What's his best position?

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PatrickGB's picture

April 10, 2019 at 09:32 pm

It’s the position he finds himself in is his best position. One of strength, resolve and willingness to deal with grief.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 10, 2019 at 09:52 pm

Wish him the very best!

Recognize there is much he has to deal with and hope he is able to convert his focus and determination. Facing one's fears head on often times is the best approach rather than avoidance.

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RickInCali's picture

April 11, 2019 at 01:27 am

What is this? How do you title a story like this and not quote the guy about what he REALLY went through, instead of what is obviously meant as some kind of feel-good supposition on your part. Also sad that you didn’t label it as such.

You weren’t walking in this guy’s shoes and I find this to be almost like stolen valor by people who claim to have served in combat, but didn’t.

This article seems dishonest at worst and misleading at best. I don’t doubt your feel-good intentions but this is no excuse for basically creating fake news. How can it be real without his own explanation?

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DavidMichalski's picture

April 11, 2019 at 01:00 pm

just providing some perspective and a recap of his struggle, also sharing my thoughts with the audience. you sir are an asshole

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RickInCali's picture

April 11, 2019 at 01:25 pm

Hope that made you feel better. Your alleged story is still garbage for the reasons stated.

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DavidMichalski's picture

April 11, 2019 at 01:46 pm

So what exactly do you refute?

Do you think Cole taking a leave of absence from the team to grieve and address his concerns about playing football was made up?

Do you think Cole showing up to camp shows he’s at least at a place now where he has found a place for football again?

Do you not think more NFL players should follow Cole’s example and step away to tend to their mental health?

Maybe you should read the SI piece and my earlier piece about his journey before calling it ”fake news”

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DavidMichalski's picture

April 11, 2019 at 01:50 pm

And to be clear those close to Cole confirm his absence stemmed from Tyler Hilinski’s tragic passing and uncertainties about playing football due to CTE.

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DavidMichalski's picture

April 11, 2019 at 01:58 pm

You want to come after me about a stance I take about X’s and O’s, who I think we should draft, or who I think we should go after in free agency, that's fair game. Coming after me and indirectly disparaging Cole’s journey because you believe I made up a story is something totally different and was way out of line.

I'd rather you trash me on Twitter than take away from Cole’s journey and struggle along with other stories of loved ones that have dealt with personal tragedies.

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Samson's picture

April 11, 2019 at 02:25 pm

David -- your response to this clown is 100% valid. -- However, beware, this poster has only a handful of total posts. -- His ID was created specifically to gardner as much reaction as possible. -- Investigate his emergence on CHTV (if possible) & you'll find he pops up all over the place with various IDs. -- I owe you a DASH of salt if I'm wrong.

Great article. -- I'm pulling for the kid like all real people are.

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Donster's picture

April 11, 2019 at 06:11 am

Good luck to Cole. I hope his life has improved over the past year, and will continue to do so, whether he keeps playing or not. It is not for us to get upset if he changes his mind again due to a serious injury, or his state of mind. I salute the Packers for their patience with Cole and bringing him back to the fold.

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EdsLaces's picture

April 11, 2019 at 08:06 am

I know the feeling. A little over a month since my little brother passed and every day is a struggle.

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dobber's picture

April 11, 2019 at 08:16 am

Condolences, Ed.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 11, 2019 at 11:08 am

I'm very sorry to hear that, Ed. When my wife passed away (5 years ago now) our youngest was still in middle school. Helping my sons deal with her unexpected demise helped me deal with it. I hope that you, too, will find a way.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 11, 2019 at 09:53 am

Ed and Reynoldo.....my condolences!

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EdsLaces's picture

April 11, 2019 at 12:52 pm

Appreciate it.

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4thand10's picture

April 11, 2019 at 11:37 pm

My condolences as well. I lost my younger brother in 2012. He was only 32. For me, that sting , stings less over time. But the dull pain hangs on. It might be different for others, but that’s how it feels with me .Healing is a process. I keep other family members and friends close, but if I need space, I take space to process things.

This article was good, I’ll be rooting for Cole.

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DavidMichalski's picture

April 12, 2019 at 12:57 am

Very sorry to hear Ed, your family is in my prayers.

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flackcatcher's picture

April 17, 2019 at 04:11 pm

Great article David. The this only the beginning for Cole. For the rest of his like he will be dealing with and fighting the wolf at his door. That he knows is the first, but most important step. As a football player, his athleticism is what drew IAMGUTE to him. If anything, coming out with his struggles should impress the new coaches and GM going ahead. Going though concussion and the on set of PTSD will humble even the most mentally hard person. Even if he does not make it in pro football, he is already a success, because he know what is his real problem is, and chose to face it. That takes real courage.

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