Cole Toner didn’t become an NFL prospect on his own and wasn’t about to celebrate one of the best days of his life that way.
The Greenwood native and former Roncalli High School football player was selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.
A 6-foot-6, 303-pound offensive lineman, Toner, a four-year starter at Harvard University, was surrounded by friends and family members when he received the phone call draft prospects dream about.
“It was awesome, but it was pretty tense for a while. I got a call before the Cardinals were up, and they were saying to be ready because they had two picks in the fifth round,” Toner said. “At the time you just never know, but I’m going to a great place.”
Toner initially spoke with Cardinals’ general manager Steve Keim, who then handed his cell phone to head coach Bruce Arians.
“Coach Arians said, ‘Welcome to the Cardinals. We’re glad to have you,’” Toner said. “The players there seem to love him.”
Arizona has posted a 34-14 record since Arians became head coach in 2013. This greatly contrasts the 118-176 mark it achieved in the dessert the first 19 seasons after the franchise relocated from St. Louis in 1994.
Arians was named NFL Coach of the Year in 2012 after leading the Indianapolis Colts to an AFC playoff berth. The Colts’ offensive coordinator at the time, Arians took over head coaching duties after Chuck Pagano’s leukemia diagnosis.
That Colts squad included Johnson County’s most recent NFL Draft selection in former Greenwood Community High School and University of Iowa linebacker A.J. Edds, who was on the injured reserve list after sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament during training camp.
Edds was taken in Round 4 of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins with the 119th overall pick. He has since retired from professional football.
Arizona took Toner with the No. 170 pick, touching off a celebration that included his parents, Dave and Angie, two of his closest friends from his time at Roncalli (Brad Fey and Greenwood resident David Heckman) and 10 buddies from Harvard.
All were watching the draft on television in the commons area of Toner’s residence on the Harvard campus.
Projected by some scouting services as a fourth-round pick, Cole Toner admits things got a bit antsy the longer he went without hearing his name called.
“I wasn’t really nervous because we’ve always told Cole you can’t be nervous about things you can’t control,” said Dave Toner, the athletics director at Roncalli.
“The conversation still was pretty normal near the end of fourth round. Then Brad Fey said, ‘We all need to change chairs.’ That sort of relieved whatever tension was in the room at the time.”
Cole agrees, adding with a laugh, “It was like getting a rally cap on in baseball, but it worked.”
Cheers eventually turned to tears for Toner’s parents, given the surreal nature of what was being experienced. Their son would get the opportunity of living out the dream of playing professional football.
Cole, who already knows the Phoenix area well, plans to fly out Thursday to join the Cardinals’ other five draft selections for three days of rookie meetings.
“He just turned 22 years old in March, and I would say Cole has already been out there at least 20 times in his life. I have two sisters, Mary and Jeanne, who live in the Tempe area, so he’s already very familiar with it,” Dave said. “This whole experience is something to cherish.”
THE TONER FILE
Family: Parents, Dave and Angie; sister, Lisa, 45; brother, Chris, 43
Favorite TV show: “Family Guy”
Favorite food: Cheese fries
Favorite movie: “Ocean’s Eleven”
Favorite athlete: Peyton Manning
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts
CARDINALS DRAFT PICKS
Round 1 – Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Mississippi
Round 3 – Brandon Williams, CB, Texas A&M
Round 4 – Evan Boehm, C, Missouri
Round 5 – Marqui Christian, S, Midwestern State
Round 5 – Cole Toner, OL, Harvard
Round 6 – Harlan Miller, CB, Southeastern Louisiana