Sidelines with John Clay

A Kentucky Wesleyan receiver just might stick with the Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars punt returner Keelan Cole (84) gets past Tampa Bay Buccaneers defenders Alan Cross (45) and Justin Evans (21) during the first half of Tampa Bay’s 12-8 win in an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jacksonville Jaguars punt returner Keelan Cole (84) gets past Tampa Bay Buccaneers defenders Alan Cross (45) and Justin Evans (21) during the first half of Tampa Bay’s 12-8 win in an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. Associated Press

I was watching the Tampa Bay Bucs-Jacksonville Jaguars NFL exhibition game on Thursday night -- don’t judge -- when all of a sudden ESPN’s Sean McDonough caught my attention.

“Keenan Cole of Kentucky Wesleyan has been the story of the Jaguars' camp.”

Kentucky Wesleyan?

Yes, it’s true. Upon further investigation, Cole is a 6-foot-1, 194-pound wide receiver from Louisville who signed with the Jags as an undrafted free agent and has been continually making plays in Jacksonville’s training camp.

Last week, during Jacksonville’s 31-24 win over New England in each team’s exhibition, Cole turned a Chad Henne pass into a 97-yard touchdown. He also caught an 11-yard pass.

In Thursday’s 12-8 loss to Tampa Bay, Cole ripped off that 31-yard return in his only chance catching punts. He also caught two passes for 20 yards, though he did drop a sure touchdown pass from Henne on the first play after his punt return.

Still, as a Twitter follower pointed out:

Wrote John Oehser of jaguars.com: “He dropped what should have been his second touchdown catch of the pre-season but he’s flashed so brightly that it’s almost impossible for that play to diminish what he’s done every day on the practice fields and in the games.”

Cole has been impressive since the beginning of camp. John Reid of the Florida Times-Union reported: “Cole earned the attention of the coaches during the first week of camp when he raced down the right sideline on a go route as the ball sailed over his shoulder he was able to run under it pulling it in with his right hand while rookie cornerback Jalen Myrick grabbed at his left arm.”

Though Cole is reportedly battling for the sixth wide receiver spot on the Jags’ roster, he’s also played well on special teams. Against New England, he made a key block on Rashad Green’s 41-yard punt return and the tackle on kickoff coverage that pinned New England on its own 15-yard line.

So who is Keelan Cole? He was primarily a defensive back at Louisville Central High School before switching full-time to wide receiver at Kentucky Wesleyan.

“I didn’t get any offers out of high school and I just worked my up,’’ Cole told the Times-Union. “I didn’t start playing receiver until college. But everything that I learned that was good, I just took it in. Honestly, I didn’t have a habit so I was getting coached by the right coaches and everybody was helping me at the right time.’’

As a sophomore, Cole led Division II in receiving yards (1,577) and touchdowns (21). As a senior at the Owensboro school, Cole earned Great Midwest Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year and Special Team Player of the Year honors after producing 2,181 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns. He led all Division II players with two kickoff returns for touchdowns and ranked second in all-purpose yards.

Will Cole make Jacksonville’s final 53-man roster? It will be interesting to watch. Jacksonville has exhibition games remaining against Carolina on August 24 and at Atlanta on August 31.

NFL exhibition television schedule

Friday, August 18

10 p.m. - Vikings at Seahawks (NFL)

Saturday, August 19

3 p.m. - Panthers at Titans (NFL)

7 p.m. - Colts at Cowboys (NFL)

10 p.m. - Broncos at 49ers (NFL)

Sunday, August 20

4 p.m. - Falcons at Steelers (NFL)

8 p.m. - Saints at Chargers (NFL)

Monday, August 21

8 p.m. - Giants at Browns (ESPN)

Thursday, August 24

7 p.m. - Dolphins at Eagles (NFL)

Friday, August 25

8 p.m. - Chiefs at Seahawks (CBS)

Saturday, August 26

8 p.m. - Chargers at Rams (CBS)

Sunday, August 27

1 p.m. - Bears at Titans (Fox)

4:30 p.m. - Bengals at Redskins (Fox)

8 p.m. - 49ers at Vikings (NBC)

Thursday, August 31

7 p.m. - Eagles at Jets (NFL)

10 p.m. - Seahawks at Raiders (NFL)

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