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Arizona Cardinals rookie OL Mason Cole hopes luck remains on his side

Michigan offensive lineman Mason Cole runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Yes, ability matters, but it’s availability that can set a player apart and ensure long-term success in the NFL. Teams want players they can count on, and for the past eight seasons, offensive lineman Mason Cole has been that player.

Whether in high school or in college, Cole never missed a start. In fact, he hardly missed a practice.

“I missed three (straight) practices because I was sick,” Cole said Thursday.

Those three practices came during Cole’s junior year at Michigan. Other than that, he had perfect attendance; a total of 104 consecutive starts combined between high school and college.

The Arizona Cardinals hope that streak continues. Four of their five projected starting offensive linemen finished last season on injured reserve.

“Honestly, I think a big part of it is luck,” Cole said. “There’s a lot of luck that plays into it, and I’ve just been lucky enough not to gotten rolled up on the wrong way.”

Cole, who the Cardinals drafted in the third round with the 97th overall pick, also credited taking care of his body, making sure to visit the training room before little issues become big issues and being a regular in the weight room.

Then there’s the message Cole constantly heard from both his parents and grandparents growing up in Tarpon, FL.

“They’ve always preached toughness and finishing the job, finishing what you started,” he said. “There’s a difference between being hurt and having pain, and for me that was the biggest thing is am I in pain or am I actually hurt and for me, I was never actually hurt. You can push through pain and that was always my goal.”

Cole and the other Cardinals rookies—a total of 30 drafted and undrafted players—reported to work on Thursday. Physicals needed to be passed, and then the players were outfitted with equipment, from head to toe.

A three-day rookie mini-camp begins Friday.

“My biggest goal is to come out here and prove to those guys (the coaches) that I can make an impact on this team and help this team win,” Cole said.

Aside from his durability, Cole has two other factors working in his favor to do just that: 1) versatility and 2) the pro style offense he played in college.

At Michigan, Cole started 25 consecutive games at left tackle before switching to center in 2016. He started all 13 games at center before switching back to left tackle for his senior season, when he started all 13 games.

Cole earned All-Big Ten honors and was on the Outland Trophy watch list at both positions.

“For me, it was always—mentality-wise—it was always doing what was best for the team. When they moved me to center, it was always to get the best five offensive linemen on the field. So I never had a problem with it because I knew if I was going to switch positions that was going to make the whole group better,” he said.

“In terms of the challenges of switching positions, I don’t think it’s as challenging as many people think. If you know your stuff inside and out and you know the techniques, you can adjust pretty quickly.”

Cole added he had no preferred position nor had the Cardinals mentioned a specific position, at least not yet.

The Cardinals don’t have an immediate opening along the offensive line, however both center A.Q. Shipley and left guard Mike Iupati will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.

Cole acknowledged the learning curve he faces moving to the NFL. He cited the playbook as well as the physicality and speed of the game as the biggest hurdles in his way.

At the same time, Cole believes his time at Michigan and specifically playing for head coach Jim Harbaugh, someone who had a 14-year NFL career, has put him in the best possible position to be a successful pro player.

“The way he runs his program, the way we practiced, the way he runs camp, the hours we spend in meeting rooms, all that stuff off the field really helps you prepare for what’s coming at the next level,” Cole said. “In terms of what we did, I don’t think there’s a better place in college football to play college football at that will prepare you for the next level like Michigan and Coach Harbaugh.”