For several year into the future Eaton sports historians are going to look back on the 2010 and then junior Cole French and argue that his performance was the best all-around season of anyone to ever wear a football uniform in that town. It was a magical year to say the least as the team marched out to a 12-0 start before bowing out to McNicholas in the Regional Finals.
The play of French earned him Division III First Team All-Ohio and Southwest District Player of the Year honors at quarterback after throwing for 2,777 yards and 27 touchdowns. It was more than that, though. He was the catalyst for the fast-paced style of head coach Ron Neanen on offense, defense and special teams.
French rarely came off the field in big games. He kicked off, knocked down 54 PATs and two field goals for 60 points. Defensively he intercepted four passes. As a punter his 36.3 yards on 39 punts was one of the tops in Southwest Ohio. This all didn't come without a price.
"I would say not starting until I was a junior the quarterbacks that were before me is what influenced me to work harder," French claimed. "When I was a freshman I was told that I would always be competing for that starting spot. So every practice I was always working my hardest."
That determination is what drives French's efforts even now.
"I am being looked at as a quarterback in college. Many college coaches have been telling me that I need to fix my ball pocket. It is too low. I have been working hard on fixing that," the Eaton signal caller added.
"They would like for me to bulk up a bit more. I am 6-foot-5 and weigh 195 pounds and they would like to see me around 215 to 220. My routine is pretty hard but still need to continue to work on getting bulkier. I want to put myself in a position to have an opportunity to make a living playing football."
How the youngster performs this fall is vital if he is to see his dream carry over into college. The real test begins in Week 1 against Talawanda. It has been almost nine month's that French has had to wait to get back on the field after a nightmarish outing in the Regional Championship against McNick, one which he can't forget.
"I am very impatient and wanting to get back on the field. Mostly just to get the last game of the season out of my head. Having that loss brought me back down to earth. It showed me what it is going to take to be the best," the senior stated. "I have been focused on becoming a complete quarterback so that I can better adapt to what a team's defensive scheme may be. There were some things that McNick did that brought out some of my weaknesses and I think I have worked hard to strengthen those areas."
How he comes out against Talawanda is going to show recruiters much about his character and his makeup as a signal-caller.
The role of leader changes this fall for the Eaton senior. Letting what his play on the field do all the talking will only be part of the equation how he handles the sidelines is the other.
"We are going to be a little young this year. We have some sophomores that are going to get some playing time. I have faith in them and we are working hard as a team to get better every day. It's going to take a lot of effort to get to the regional championship two years in a row," French said. "We have a target on our back in every game this year. Everybody is looking to beat us. That means that we have to work that much harder."
FINAL TAKE: They say there is no "I" in team and Cole French is totally gets that old axiom. In every step of his journey, he has always taken away something and used it constructively to become a complete player. That ability to recognize and implement those experiences is what sets this Eagle standout apart from his peers. That love, drive and passion should never be overlooked by any coach at any level. A winner is a winner no matter how you slice it and French is that victor in every sense of the word. He is truly worth the cost of admission on Friday night.