La Crosse to Canada: Receiver Cole Spieker’s Journey from the Upper Midwest to the Montreal Alouettes

Montreal Alouette’s (Canadian Football League) wide receiver Cole Spieker didn’t hesitate  when he was asked to name what his proudest accomplishment was.

After finishing his two year career at Division III University Wisconsin LaCrosse, Spieker found himself first in school history in receptions in a game, first in receptions in a season, and was the first UW- LaCrosse player to be named conference offensive player of the year. With these accolades and more to choose from, he went with:

“The first time I got picked to be captain, my senior year”

Spieker holds a humble demeanor and possesses an unparalleled devotion to hard work. Hailing from about 125 miles northwest of Minneapolis in Brainerd, Minnesota, the 25 year old has already overcome several challenges that would’ve convinced many in his position to leave football behind.

Spieker’s first experience on the gridiron was in middle school, and he continued playing at his local public high school. Listed at 6 feet 2 inches and 185 pounds as a high school senior, he was passed over by Division I scouts and opted to explore Junior College and Division III schools.

What decidedly drew Spieker to the University of Wisconsin- LaCrosse was the promise of competitive conference football in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), and challenging academic offerings. While he graduated with a major concentration in Math Education, the material that would best prepare him for life after college took place between the lines.

“I learned a lot from my coaches there, how to be a hard worker, how to be dedicated” Spieker said.

Slightly underweight as an incoming freshman at LaCrosse, Spieker quickly understood what would be necessary to take the next step. At the end of Cole’s freshman season, LaCrosse’s conference had three teams ranked in the top 15 in all of Division III. With a goal to be competitive within the conference, Spieker first had to compete for a spot on the depth chart.

I was pretty light going into my freshman year. That first offseason I put on some muscle”.

At the onset of his sophomore season, the Brainerd High graduate pushed the scale to 210. A 25 pound increase from his senior high school season; and it was only a matter of time until his razor sharp work ethic transferred from the weight room to the field. Spieker began to amplify his teammates’ abilities on both sides of the ball, and inevitably caught the eyes of his coaches.

He practices game speed, full speed, every single day…When you have a leader that practices the way Cole practices, that makes your team better” said Spieker’s former coach, Matt Janus, the current head coach at UW- LaCrosse.

A labor intensive sophomore year earned the Minnesota bred receiver action in 10 games over the course of his 2018 junior year campaign. Despite not starting every game,  Spieker was chosen as captain by his teammates at the end of the season.

You vote somebody captain because you’re counting on them to make plays” said coach Janus.

Cole came into his own in his senior year. Igniting Lacrosse’s offense, and becoming the focal point of opposing coordinators’ gameplans. View his senior season highlights here.

He tallied three games with more than 140 receiving yards, including a game on the road against UW- River Falls, where he collected 235 all purpose yards and three touchdowns.

Finishing the year with 83 receptions, 1216 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns, Spieker was set on continuing his football career after he graduated in 2020.

On the evening of March 11, 2020, Spieker would have been optimistic about his chances to get an opportunity at the next level. He had just participated in an NFL pro day for small school players, and clocked a 4.5 40-yard dash time at 6 foot 3, 215 pounds.

What came next for Cole will feel familiar for most: a prolonged period of unknowns and unable-to’s as a result of the international pandemic. When the smoke cleared, the UW- LaCrosse grad was nearing a year and a half where he had not played a down of organized football.

“It was good to have my girlfriend and my family supporting me…I didn’t really know what was going to happen” Spieker said.

In 2021 Spieker got an opportunity with The Spring League. Self-headlined as an “elite professional football development league”, the now dissolved league boasted over 100 former members that inked an NFL contract. As a member of the north division’s Conquerors, Spieker played under former Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville.

Once again, Spieker’s perseverance was tested when the Spring League concluded, and the wideout was left without a team.

“A lot of people would’ve given up… That guy just keeps believing in himself, he just keeps working” said coach Janus.

Spieker attended the National Scouting Combine in March of 2022 in Westfield, Indiana where he earned the third highest ranking out of seventeen wide receivers who competed in the event. The combination of his speed, size and catching ability turned heads, one of them being Montreal Alouettes Director of College Scouting, Russ Lande.

On May 9th of 2022 Spieker signed with the Montreal Alouettes. With limits on the number of foreign players allowed on the gameday roster, it’s common for American newcomers to begin their CFL tenures on the practice squad. This is Spieker’s current spot, but being called up before the season’s end is a real possibility.

“It’s gonna happen…. That guy works too hard, he’s too big, he’s too strong, he’s too fast.” said coach Janus.

With the 2022 CFL season running until November 20th, Spieker has more than enough time to keep overcoming the odds.

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