Sept. 5, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
Kevin Cone might not have been the last NFL player to get a call this summer, but he entered the league in arrears of most of them, and in recent days he took his leave after being one of hundreds of players visited by, “The Turk.”
The Turk is the somewhat fictional guy who cuts NFL players.
Life has been a whirlwind for the former Georgia Tech wide receiver, and The Turk was just another buzzard along his trail.
Cone’s already back in the NFL, somewhat against odds, vultures be damned. He was signed to Atlanta’s practice squad over the weekend. If you consider the fact he had six career catches as a collegian, he has succeeded despite ranking among the longest of shots from the jump.
“I’m one injury [from another Atlanta player] away from playing in the NFL,” Cone said Monday.
Never mind that Cone’s father, former Tech and Jets running back Ronny Cone, once made a bit of a living in the NFL. Once the NFL lockout ended over the summer, Kevin did not receive an invite to a training camp before they began.
“I didn’t get any calls; I’m not sure why,” he said. “My agent was trying to contact teams.”
How frustrating must that have been? After graduating last December with a degree in mechanical engineering, Cone – not even a full-time starter as a college senior – worked his tail off in chasing a dream. Really, it was a dream.
He didn’t play football until his junior year in high school, as a defensive back at St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta. Only as a senior at SPX did he start on offense, and the Golden Lions – then as now – did not pass much.
After a successful stint at Shorter College, and then transferring to Tech, Cone could have been called crazy for even thinking he had a shot in the NFL. But he kept plugging.
The Falcons months earlier had been the only NFL team to ask Cone to work out for them. Nothing came of it until Atlanta suffered injuries in camp.
His agent, Mark Clouser of Pennsylvania, represents another former Tech player who was already in the Falcons’ camp, fullback Lucas Cox.
A payoff came.
“About a week into training camp, the Falcons called and asked if I was still available,” Cone said, “and I told them I was.”
After a preseason spent busting it, The Turk came. Then, there came a call.
Had that callback not come, Cone wasn’t giving up on football. The Arena League was a possibility, the Canadian league as well. Both leagues might remain in play.
If the Falcons had not called him back, Cone said, “I would have discussed [the Arena League and the CFL] with my agent to see if it was a possibility. As long as football is still a possibility, I want to play.”
Cone had a fantastic internship with Westinghouse in the summer of 2010, learning a great deal about the nuances of nuclear power plants. One day, that may be the way he makes a living.
For now, he’s not ready to give up the notion of making bucks in football.
“Receiving, special teams, everything I can work on,” he said of his immediate plans with the Falcons. “They’re evaluating players on the team and the practice squad guys. They’ve even got me running a little defense on scout team . . . playing safety to give them a good look.”
Cone is getting a look. And he’s still looking afar as well.
Count him among the amazed after the Yellow Jackets passed for 365 yards in their season-opening win last Thursday over Western Carolina.
He said he wasn’t bitter, but rather impressed and happy.
“I was so happy for the guys,” Cone said. “I was down at Tech working out a lot during the summer, and I saw those guys working all the time. I’m very happy for them, very happy. I hope I can get back to see a game this fall.”