When Cole Tracy heard the letters "L-S-U" over a phone call, he didn’t think it was true.
"Louisiana State University," LSU special teams coach Greg McMahon said over the phone.
"Like the Tigers?" asked Tracy, who was trying to think of any other LSU’s that he knew of.
"Yes, like the Tigers," McMahon replied.
It was the two’s first ever conversation, and for Tracy, playing at a school like LSU was unfathomable around this time last year. The 5-foot-11, 188-pound kicker played for Assumption College, a private college whose enrollment is just over 2,000 undergraduate students, in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Tracy’s road to Assumption is unique. He had placed in the top 12 in an elite camp during his junior year of high school, but little came of it.
"I ranked fairly up there, but the recruiting process doesn’t always work the way it does for others," Tracy said. "I’m glad that it worked out the way it did for me."
He spent four years at Assumption, a Division II school a part of the Northeast 10 Conference. After redshirting his first year, Tracy started the next three years and went a combined 68-of-84 on field goals with a long of 53 and 169-of-174 on extra points.
During his redshirt junior season, Tracy went 27-of-29 on field goals and 67-of-67 on extra points and was given the Fred Mitchell Award, which goes to the top kicker across the five classifications below the FBS level.
His accuracy made him the perfect target for LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who spent most of 2017 lamenting about the Tigers’ kicking woes. Between junior Jack Gonsoulin and redshirt sophomore Connor Culp, LSU ended the season making only 59.3 percent of its field goals, which ranked 110 in the country.
So, when McMahon told Orgeron he found the best graduate transfer kicker available, there was no hesitation to begin the pursuit and bring him to campus on scholarship despite having only one year of eligibility left.
"It was a mutual connection that set up the phone call," said Tracy, who also heard from Oklahoma State, UMass and a few other schools. "I was sitting in my dorm room and it was a 225 [area code]."
Tracy said the phone call with McMahon lasted about 30 minutes, and that afterward they spoke almost everyday leading up to his official visit.
The final hurdle for Tracy was McMahon having a conversation with then-Assumption coach Bob Chesney, who has since taken the head job at Holy Cross College.
Chesney got in touch with McMahon and called Tracy into his office soon after.
"I just remember we were jumping up and down," Tracy said. "We were real excited because we knew it was legit. Everything was the way we thought it was."
Tracy came up huge for LSU against Miami, converting all four field goal attempts and all three extra points. The 15 points he scored is the fourth-highest in school history, and his final field goal of 54 yards tied an LSU record.
Tracy was so dialed into the game and focused on his technique that he wasn’t even aware of what hash his first kick was or how far it was.
"My routine is the biggest thing," said Tracy, who added that he hasn’t had much technical coaching and that he is usually working on things by himself. "I want to make sure that every single part of that routine is the exact same no matter if I’m kicking at Assumption College, [LSU’s indoor facility], or AT&T Stadium. I want to make sure I focus on the little things."
"That’s something I pride myself on, is my technique and ability to stay smooth, calm, and consistent," Tracy said. "I’ve never been the big- ball type of guy. There’s plenty of guys in college football with bigger legs than me, but what I try to focus on is being as consistent as I can and hitting a really good
He has begun readying himself for Southeastern and playing in Tiger Stadium. Tracy said he had started preparation for the Miami game since the day he signed, and that there is no way to prepare for a game mentally a few hours prior or the day before.
"This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and each week is going to be a new experience," Tracy said. "I’m really looking forward to this Saturday home-opener, playing in Tiger Stadium, playing in front of these fans. It’ll be a good time."