December 6, 2023

If you ask Cole Wick to describe himself, he’s proud to list the many identities that make up who he is.





UIW alumnus.

And, oh yes, former professional NFL player.

Cole Wick and familyA graduate of the Class of 2016, and the first UIW football alumnus to make an NFL game day roster, Wick is grateful for the opportunities and professional experiences he’s had. But he always knew that his life’s purpose and identity would be greater than football.

“I personally am not the person who identifies with the sport,” he shared. “People put you in a box anyway. If they’re going to say, ‘you’re just a football player, you do X, X and X,’ I want to say, ‘no, I’m not just a football player because I do X, Y and Z.’ 

His perspective has been shaped by a keen awareness that the plans we make don’t always account for the twists and turns life brings. Just a few short years before being named to the Detroit Lions roster, Wick had dreams of becoming a corporate lawyer, and admits he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to play college ball. Of the chance to play college sports, then high school senior Wick wrote the following sentiment in his college athletics recruiting profile:  

I know that if it is meant to be, it will happen.

As national football signing day drew nearer during his senior year of high school with no offers, it seemed the choice whether to continue playing would be made for him – that was until right before signing day, when an offer to play D2 football at a private, Catholic school about two hours from his hometown in Hallettsville came in.


“My first and only and last offer came in right before signing day,” he remembered with a laugh. “And that was UIW.”

familyWick initially didn’t know a lot about the University of the Incarnate Word, but like so many others, once he made a visit to campus, he quickly felt he had found where he was meant to be, at least temporarily. The University offered him the chance to play football, grow in his faith, and study business.

“We visited the school, walked around … it felt really homey to me,” he recalled of his first trip to campus with his family. “It brought a lot of comfort.”

That feeling, coupled with the opportunities offered by the University, convinced Wick that attending UIW was the next right step, though he admits that at the time, he thought becoming a Cardinal would be just that – a steppingstone to his ultimate college home. But his plans to transfer to a larger university after a year or two at the Nest were soon altered.

Cole Wick

“It didn’t happen,” he said of his original plan to transfer. “I liked the situation that I came into, and everything was working well. It was really starting to feel like home.”

In addition to feeling pulled to stay at UIW by the relationships he had built with faculty, teammates, peers and coaches, Wick had felt a shift in the football team’s trajectory. It was something he was hungry to remain part of as a leader. His freshman season, the team saw a 2-9 overall record. As a starter his sophomore year, he was part of the team that earned UIW football’s first winning record, ending the season 6-5.    

UIW football players

“I have this weird self-competition going,” he laughed of his decision to continue playing on the still young team and struggle through its growing pains. “I put myself in the hardest position possible and try to dig out.”

This competitive spirit is one Wick has carried since childhood, and one that was encouraged by the relationship with his two younger brothers Evan and Cullen. Growing up, the Wick brothers found a way to turn everything into a competition, from simple made-up games at home to who could be the best football player on their school team, but their love and admiration for one another was as fierce as their rivalry.

Everything was a competition,” Wick said. “I wanted to be at the top of my game, and it was the same for my brothers. We were competing at every level … but I’ll tell you, there was nobody messing with them except for me and vice versa.”

The desire to be the best – and the accountability of two brothers ready at any given moment to take that top spot – paid off for the three (Evan and Cullen both played college football and experienced NFL stints) and continues paying dividends to this day, as they have each found their own success. Their parents Bo and Pam – an engineer and teacher, respectively – modeled hard work and discipline, sacrificed to provide their four children with a private, Catholic education and traveled around the state for games, camps and championships. Wick now looks back at everything they provided, as well as the bond he shares with his father, as an example of the type of person he strives to be.

Cole's son“We witnessed him work so that we could do what we wanted to do,” he shared of how his father prioritized him and his siblings. “I wanted to play for him, so that he was able to experience all the things that he never got to experience. When we won a state championship in high school, he was there for that. He was at every one of my college games … I want to do that for my son, to be the same type of father that he was for me.”

The example of his father and other role models along the way helped Wick learn to focus on that which he could control, even as life didn’t go according to plan. Initially, the UIW football team’s losses were difficult pills to swallow for him. Fresh off an undefeated, state-winning senior football season in high school, Wick admits he wasn’t used to losing. Now after years learning from his college coaches, faculty and NFL role models, he’s able to look back on those losses with gratitude and a smile.

“We weren’t losing, we were learning lessons.”

Through all the lessons and losses, in football and in life, Wick credits this ability to focus on what he can impact for keeping him on the right path.

“The beauty of life is that it’s not against you and it’s not for you,” he explained of his outlook. “When you can look at it that way, then you can stop looking at yourself as a victim, stop looking at yourself as a victor, and just exist in this middle ground. That means letting go of the things you can’t control.”

As for what he could control, Wick was determined to learn and acquire the skills he would need for a successful, fulfilling life beyond football. As a Cardinal, he earned automatic selection to the Southland Conference all-academic team, was named to the National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society, boasted a 3.8 GPA, and took every academic challenge head on, in preparation for the day when he would leave football behind. That day came in 2021. After stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints, Wick retired from the NFL to focus on healing his body and being as present a father for his young son Grant as his father was for him. 

Today, Wick is a business insurance provider for Marsh McLennan Agency, a role he views as an exciting new challenge in his endless self-competition. He shares that his time in UIW’s business program, on the Cardinals football team and in the NFL prepared him for this latest change in plans.

“In order to be able to play at the NFL level, you’ve got to be able to digest a lot of information quickly,” he explained of the skills he gained as an athlete and student. “In college, you’re not necessarily only studying for a diploma, but you’re training your mind to get ready for what’s next.” 

Now in this chapter of his life, and upon reflecting on his own journey, as well as those of people he cared about, Wick felt stirred to help the next generation of UIW student-athletes do just that – get ready for what’s next. He’s doing so with a $25,000 gift to the University that will support student-athletes in leadership development opportunities. When asked why he felt called to this charge, he shared a story. 

“This goes back to someone close to me who I watched struggle when they came out of college athletics,” he recalled. “He was so dead set on making sure that he got to where he wanted to be, which was the NFL. When that didn’t happen, it hit him different.”

Wick described the experience as watching his loved one’s happiness, drive and purpose all fade away. He witnessed a worrisome emotional and mental decline, and knew he had to do something to help. After connecting his loved one with resources and standing by his side in support, Wick realized that he wanted to make a new change to his life’s plan – this one intentional. He was determined to do what he could to help other young athletes avoid the devastating consequences of their identity being completely wrapped up in the sports they played.

“What I wanted to do with this gift was to open up the doors to allow student-athletes to see that there are other things out there than just their sport,” Wick explained. “I want this gift to fund skill building in professional development resources like how to build a resume, networking and more, so that student-athletes don’t feel like they have nothing when they’re coming out of college athletics.”

Wick is no stranger himself to plans changing. More than a decade since he wrote, “I know that if it is meant to be, it will happen,” he still aims to focus on that which he can control and leave the rest in God’s hands. The difference today is the clearer view he has of how much he can control and the difference he can make.

“You can try to tackle the whole world, or you can just pick something,” he said of the myriad opportunities to make a difference in the world. “This is the place where I feel I can make a difference.”