Falls running back is player of the year

Cole Myhra credits genes, hard work for his success

Nov. 27, 2009

Menomonee Falls — Many folks around town know about NOW Newspapers Football Player of the Year Cole Myhra's running back uncles Larry and Ron Myhra, who starred in the Menomonee Falls school system back in the 1960s and 70s.

"A good bloodline has really helped," laughed Cole in one conversation.

Gymnastics made him tough

But not as many people know that the athletic DNA comes from Cole's father, Wayne, who was an All-American gymnast at UW-Oshkosh, and who encouraged his son to participate in the sport for close to a decade at the local La Fleur's Gymnastics Academy.

Maybe that explains much of the Menomonee Falls running back's ability to elude tacklers, to take them on when they are unavoidable and to run away from them when needed.

"Dad's always encouraged hard work, and it is a tough sport," Cole said of gymnastics. "Lots of sit-ups, lots of push-ups and those (horizontal) bars would really kill your arms. … but I really liked climbing the (the floor to ceiling) rope."

An all-around athlete, Cole tried almost everything, even soccer ("It didn't work out, I kept trying to catch it with my hands," he laughed) and basketball (he remembers Falls Hall of Famer Mike Ehler showing his team how to shoot jump shots).

And so by the time Cole reached adolescence, father and son had a meeting when an opportunity came up for Cole to be on a traveling gymnastics team.

"It (gymnastics) wasn't my best sport, but I could have made it," Cole said, "but then Dad pointed out there would not be much time for any other sports if I did that."

So gymnastics fell by the wayside, but its lessons were used elsewhere as Myhra blossomed into a star in other endeavors. He always listened to the right voices (youth coaches like Bob Dekoning, Pat Widule and Ehler) and became a starting centerfielder in baseball and a capable sprint relay runner for the state runner-up track team.

But it has been football - where his uncles made their names - where Cole has really shined. Just listen to Jim Jeskewitz, the state Hall of Fame coach who worked with Ron Myhra in the early 1970s.

Uncles provide insight

"Cole is bigger and stronger than both of them, but he has the same shifty moves," Jeskewitz said. "He can dip and duck and find that extra yard."

And when his uncles spoke, Cole listened.

"Uncle Ron's stories are always great and Uncle Larry was even more of a coach to me," Cole noted. "He would notice things and say 'You guys should try this,' … and he should know, he was a heck of a player himself. We would try those things he suggested and they worked."

Uncle Larry's suggestions worked a great deal it turned out, as Cole led the 12-2 state runner-up Indians not only by example (he played a little linebacker, too, early in the season when Bobby Nelessen was hurt), but in word and in deed, showing great humility in the process.

"Dave Weber and I coached the sixth-graders (in football) this fall," said Jeskewitz, "and he (Cole) came and talked to us about what it was like when he was a sixth-grader. He talked about how he and his classmates didn't win a game or score a point.

"And he said, 'Look how far we've come (state finals). You can do that, too, if you put your mind to it.' He's just a really good kid."

Current Indians head coach John Baker knows that fact very well.

"He knows when to stay loose and when to bring it to a certain level," Baker said. "He's one of the toughest football players that I know. He understands the game. A real competitor. I don't think I've seen someone who wants to win more than he does."

Fierce competitor

"I just never like giving up on a play," Cole said. "If I see a play drawn up that I can get 20 yards out of, I'll want to get 21."

And that characteristic was easily seen by the opposition, too. The state champion Marquette defense, the best in Wisconsin this fall, had to try and stop Myhra twice this season. He gained more than 220 yards combined in those two games, a most formidable figure.

"It's just mind over matter," said Cole. "You have to fight for your yards."

And listen to Brookfield Central all-state defensive lineman Bryce Gilbert after the Indians hard-fought win over the Lancers earlier this season.

"The game meant so much to Cole (Myhra)," Gilbert said. "After the game he said that it was the game of his life. I respect him (for that). I think he's a cool guy and I (had) never met him before."

The 6-foot, 200-pound Myhra earned second-team All-State from the Associated Press and a lot of division II and III colleges are after him. He's not sure what he'll do but he would like to continue to play football.

"Right now, I'm just soaking it all in," he said. "Taking in all the memories. This was such a fun year. … A once in a lifetime sort of thing."

Built on good blood-lines and hard work.

NOW Player of the Year

Cole Myhra is the second Indian to earn the honor

FINAL STATISTICS: This season, Myhra ran for 1,765 yards on 306 carries (5.8 per carry) with 22 touchdowns with a long run of 38 yards. He also caught nine passes for 123 yards and a touchdown and returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.

FALLS ALL-SUBURBAN RUNNING BACKS: Ryan Gorecki in 2005 (also, Player of the Year); Jake Polk in 2002; and Darrick Hyland in 1994.

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