After sitting out 2018, Madison ‘went numb’ upon making roster

Bill Huber

A year ago, Cole Madison was simply trying to get his personal demons under control.

“My life was on the line,” he recalled in April. At the time, playing professional football was the furthest thing from his mind.

Back in control of his life, Madison returned to the Green Bay Packers in April. On Saturday, he made the team’s 53-man roster.

“Oh, my God. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster,” a smiling Madison said of his Saturday following Sunday’s practice. “Just waiting – hopefully not for a call – and then freak out every time my phone vibrated. Finally, 3 o’clock came around, and my agent texted me and said, ‘You’ve got a couple minutes left but I think you’re good, but I don’t want to jinx it.’ Of course, that freaked me out even more. Fifteen minutes go by and he gave me a call. Dramatic pause and then, ‘You’re in.’ My whole body went numb. Just great, especially looking back at where I was a year ago. It’s amazing. I’m just speechless. I still have no words. No words.”

Madison, who is from Shelton, Wash., called his parents to tell them the news. He couldn’t make out their words over their screams of elation.

Madison was a surprise inclusion on the roster established by general manager Brian Gutekunst. However, Gutekunst liked Madison’s trajectory and kept last year’s fifth-round pick on the team as a ninth offensive lineman.

“The guy we drafted, the talent we saw coming out of Washington State, I think he displayed and he got better each week,” Gutekunst said.

It’s an ending nobody expected.

In January 2018, Madison’s quarterback at Washington State, Tyler Hilinski, was found dead in his apartment, lying next to a gun and a suicide note. Madison already was fighting his own personal issues, and his friend’s death shot him careening down a dark and scary path. He competed with the team during the offseason practices but was a no-show for training camp and wound up skipping the entire season.

“I had to go help myself before my football career,” Madison said in April. “If I didn’t get my chickens in order back then, I don’t think I’d be here right now.”

Where he is today is with the Packers, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

“I’ve got nothing but thanks for the Green Bay Packers and Gutey for their support during this time away and all the resources they gave me,” Madison said. “And my family, too, and them being there for me. And all my friends, I wouldn’t be here without them. I wouldn’t have made it here without them. It was a group effort. It took everything – my ability to get where I am mentally off the field and physically on the field. I can’t begin to describe how thankful I am for everybody who was with me during the past year. It means the world.”

Madison started 47 games at right tackle for Washington State and was a three-time member of the all-Pac-12 team. Not surprisingly, it took him a while to get back to playing like he knew he could play. During training camp, he bombed in an experiment at center. During three preseason games, he was flagged four times. But in his final preseason game, the Winnipeg contest against Oakland, he felt the old Madison returning.

“I felt at home again, I felt good,” he said. “I wasn’t going out there and freaked out in my mind. I was comfortable. I belonged there. I’m not saying that I wasn’t mentally prepared in previous games, but that last game, I felt like, ‘I can do this.’ The sky’s the limit.”