His absence left a void, especially athletically for Cole.
“I just remember the time he was trying to high jump and he kept missing and kept missing and we just both sat there and bawled on the high-jump pit because I couldn't help him,” Cole's mom Sherri Verble said. “It's been tough at times, so I think we've just sought people that could help him.”
The help from various coaches around the area has been beneficial. Cole won the Class 5A pole vaulting championship last spring, clearing 14 feet, 6 inches to eclipse his father's mark of 12 feet, 6 inches.
He then burst into tears.
“Every time I beat anything he does, I feel relieved almost,” he said. “I feel empowered to keep going further.”
The healing process has been slow for Cole.
But just one year after Paul's death, Cole turned to music to describe his feelings. He wrote a song, “They Say” for his band At Long Last that focuses on how people say Cole reminds them of his father.
He and his brother Chace also got matching tattoos on their chests of a fireman's badge with a Purcell Dragon on top. The words “Captain Paul” and “Don't forget Feb. 21, 2010” are inscribed.
Cole recently shared his story at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event, too. During last week's Senior Night ceremony, Cole carried his father's firefighter helmet under his arm, surprising his entire family on the field.
Each time he talks about it, things feel a little better. And each time, he shows a maturity many people notice.
“The thing I've noticed is he's got a smile and a sense about him,” Deer Creek football coach Grant Gower said. “I don't know if part of that is being a senior and being older now, but he seems like he's driven and wants to do well. I think he has a clear direction.”
Longtime teammates also notice a difference in Cole's demeanor.
“Cole has become such a leader, I mean there's a lot of people that look up to him,” said Sander, Cole's quarterback since the sixth grade. “He's definitely a different person leadership-wise. I think he's tried to step up and be the man of the household.”
Over the summer, Cole took his desire to surpass his dad to another level by competing in his first decathlon.
For Cole, there was nothing more perfect.
“My dad used to always say, ‘Do one thing, do it well and then move on,' he said. “That's just something I go by. I just do that with everything. Try your best on the play in football, if things don't go well you tried your best and go on to the next one.
“Don't even think about what happens in the past. Try one thing, do it well and go on.”