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Cole Strange didn't end up joining the military, but through his foundation and My Cause My Cleats, he's giving back to those who served

There was a time when New England Patriots offensive lineman Cole Strange believed he might join the military after college, but his dream of making it to the NFL came true. For My Cause My Cleats, he's paying tribute to those who did serve.

Cole Strange. Cole Strange Foundation. My Cause My Cleats

Through much of his senior year at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, New England Patriots offensive lineman Cole Strange figured he might end up enlisting in the military after graduation.

At that point, he was projected to potentially sign as an undrafted free agent after the NFL Draft, but if football didn't work out, he would serve his country.

"I have a lot of respect for people who served in the military, and I think it's kind of personal because it's what I wanted to do if football didn't work out," Strange said, well into his second season with the Patriots, who selected him in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

"I talked to my dad during the season about it, and I said I'm going to give it a shot but I could get cut. I didn't know how any of this worked. We didn't have a ton of guys at Chattanooga who were in that situation to look up to for guidance, but I did know if it didn't work out then I wanted to go to the military. I knew I would get fulfillment and purpose out of it."

This season, the 25-year-old launched the Cole Strange Foundation to honor and support veterans, and for the NFL's My Cause My Cleats initiative this week, he'll get to bring attention to that mission.

"I guess my way of connecting to that, since I can't do it for my career, is to help people who have," Strange added.

Back in September, Strange held an inaugural "Patriots at the Movies" event, inviting around 60 military veterans for drinks, snacks, and a screening of the newly released Gran Turismo film. Following that up on Nov. 6, he hosted his first fundraising event, an "Evening to Salute Veterans," at Gillette Stadium.

He has another fundraising event planned for the spring, and the hope is to host two a year, with proceeds going to help veterans who have been injured in combat as well as those struggling financially or mentally.

"Everyone has a story that will break your heart and it was no different with them," Strange said of the experience getting to meeting local veterans.

"I was like, damn, I wish I had more money to give away. It felt good to be able to talk to them and hear from the actual people who served and what they struggled with. There's a lot of talk about it, and I didn't know too many homeless veterans myself, but I know there is a staggering rate of veterans who die by suicide every day. These people probably aren't the type to want to reach out for help in the first place – they might be ashamed of that. I don't know how to combat that, but what I can do is help raise money to get them resources, and I think that is really cool."

Learn more about the Cole Strange Foundation here.

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