Jets’ Keelan Cole wants to be New York’s new highlight reel receiver

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There’s a new receiver in New York known for a circus one-handed catch that registered a 9.0 on the Odell Beckham Jr. Difficulty Scale.

While playing for the Jaguars against the Patriots on Sept. 16, 2018, new Jets receiver Keelan Cole twisted his body to reach and palm a pass thrown over his back shoulder before it sailed out of bounds. “That’s Odell Beckham right there!” CBS game analyst Tony Romo screamed, after tripping over his first words in awe.

But where Beckham’s viral catch for the Giants in front of 22.4 million “Sunday Night Football” viewers in 2014 launched a life of A-list parties and the path to a $95 million contract, Cole’s had a much different lasting effect on his career.

“Now I have to make those plays all the time, in my eyes,” Cole told The Post. “If you let it go or drop it once, I would expect everybody to be like, ‘You could’ve caught that.’ If it happened once, you should be doing it every time — or at least it should be more on your side than the defensive back’s side if you are in that situation to catch a ball one-handed again.”

Keelan Cole’s insane catch on Sept. 16, 2018.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Interesting choice of words. Expecting the sensational — the overlooked part of his catch was how he switched the ball to his other hand and tucked it into his chest as he somersaulted to the ground, avoiding a ground-caused incompletion — is not seen as a burden by Cole.

“It was unexpected, but it wasn’t accidental,” said Cole, who calmly jogged back to the huddle and finished the drive with a touchdown catch. “It happened so fast. But I practice that type of stuff all the time. If I say I practice it, then I have to stay true to it and make those catches when they come. I try to work on being there for the irregular times.”

Music to rookie quarterback Zach Wilson’s ears.

All the excitement generated by the Jets signing $37.5 million free agent Corey Davis and drafting Elijah Moore — both of whom have had strong training camps — has allowed the 26-year-old Cole’s addition to fly under the radar. In a suddenly deep receiving corps, the 6-foot-1, 194-pound Cole is not the tallest, fastest or youngest.

“If I had a superpower, I think I would be the one who adapts within the play,” Cole said. “That would be cool. If we are running all slants and Corey moves someone out of the way, [Jamison] Crowder goes, and I’ll just be the one to figure it out and use attributes from both of them to get better and figure out different types of ways to get open.”

Jets
Keelan Cole makes a catch against the Giants.
AP

Cole has a knack for figuring things out.

The converted cornerback learned to play wide receiver at Division II Kentucky Wesleyan and then blossomed into the undrafted rookie who not only made a talented roster but led the Jaguars in receiving yards (748) the year they finished one win shy of reaching the Super Bowl. Three seasons later, he had career highs of 55 catches and five touchdowns to earn a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Jets.

“I’ve always wanted to be somewhere I was wanted, always wanted to have an equal chance,” Cole said. “Once you get the money, they have to give you an opportunity. There are a lot of steps you take for going ‘undrafted’ to disappear. I’m working to be a No. 1 [receiver], not working just to be on the roster anymore.”

Cole is in the unusual position of having upgraded by leaving the one-win Jaguars for the two-win Jets, switching cities that became obsessed with losing last season for the possibility to draft Trevor Lawrence. Already that feels like a long time ago.

“I really wanted to be blind to that stuff and block it out, but it was stressful,” Cole said. “When you want to take the next step and you’re not winning games, it’s not a good environment to be in when you are actually trying.

“I’ve been thinking about how with this team, compared to where I’ve been, there’s more positivity. You never know what to expect coming into any season, but after the first preseason game — not the game play or the detail — but there was the positivity that we can win.”

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