When Cole Bixenman made the decision to become a Wildcat after his senior year at Todd Beamer High School, there was one aspect of the Linfield athletic culture that served as the ultimate factor in his decision to pick Linfield over local Northwest Conference programs.
“Winning,” said the senior from Federal Way, Wash., who passed on nearby NWC schools Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran. “It was a pretty easy choice. I didn’t want to be super close to home and the baseball/football combination made it easy. Linfield is a great school and if it was going to be any school in the Northwest Conference it was going to be Linfield.”
During three seasons of baseball and football at Linfield, Bixenman has participated in plenty of winning. The senior has played in two NCAA Division III College World Series, while leading the baseball program to a pair of NWC and regional championships. Bixenman is also coming off a 12-1 football season in which the Wildcats reached the national semifinals.
While winning has been the one constant between his two sports, the senior quarterback has seen his role on the football team develop much differently than during the spring.
As a two-year starter on the baseball team, Bixenman has twice been honored as a Northwest Conference all-star, while belting 13 home runs and driving in 70 RBIs as a junior in 2010.
The journey in football has been much different.
Playing behind a potential All-American in quarterback Aaron Boehme for three seasons, Bixenman started just two games as a sophomore in 2008, spending the majority of his time in a reserve role. After enjoying more immediate success in baseball as a freshman and seeing the potential for limited playing time that might be available to him in the coming seasons, there were thoughts of hanging up his helmet and pads.
“I thought about (giving up football) briefly but I decided to give it another shot,” notes Bixenman, an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District team selection. “There were some injuries so I started a couple games and played a lot that year. I’m not sure what would have happened if it hadn’t been for that season. I got a little taste of it and couldn’t leave.”
“It’s tough. Everyone is a competitor and wants to play,” reflects Bixenman. “I believe it’s been for the best, being able to learn different roles, including leadership roles. There is so much camaraderie on our team and a great bunch of guys. You can’t experience that anywhere but football.”
The life of a backup quarterback is less than ideal. With limited reps during practice, a backup quarterback is expected to step in and produce if an injury to the starter were to occur. Preparation and an ability to stay focused prove to be vital.
“Sometimes I catch myself drifting when I am not getting many reps, but then I realize that one play or one roll of an ankle and I’m in there,” explains Bixenman. “I have to be mentally prepared at the quarterback position. Anything could happen and that alone keeps me focused.”
Bixenman’s ability to be ready when called upon is something that doesn’t go unnoticed by fifth-year head coach Joseph Smith.
“Cole is the consummate teammate,” explains Smith. “He not only works hard, but is also a strong leader on this team. It is hard to be a backup quarterback, as the position is usually an all-or-nothing proposition. Unlike most other positions, you are either the guy, or you are not. However, you must be ready to lead at a moment’s notice, as things can change so quickly.”
Situated in a reserve role, Bixenman’s ability to handle the situation has been made easier because of the type of teammates he has, most of all Boehme. In their fourth year as teammates, Bixenman and Boehme have been able to develop a friendship both on and off the field.
“Aaron and I are best friends and we hang out every day so that makes it easier,” notes Bixenman. “It’s not like I’m in fierce competition with him. I know where I stand and we’re cool about it. Overall, the football team is a bunch of good guys and I really enjoy being there.”
Boehme has seen Bixenman’s team-first mentality throughout their first three seasons together, recognizing the intangibles he brings to the table.
“Bix is really just a huge team player,” says Boehme. “We have developed into great friends and he is as encouraging as anyone out there on game day. He always has a great attitude and keeps practices loose and fun. It really is amazing how he is always positive no matter what. I think he has taken his role on the team and run with it.”
For Smith, Bixenman has represented the type of player every coach dreams of having.
“I am very proud of Cole as he has placed the team first his entire time here, and has never lost that work ethic, competitiveness, or that great smile,” notes Smith. “Cole embodies this program. He is of high character and excels in both academics and athletics.”
With a handful of games remaining on the 2010 schedule, Bixenman is reflective of his four years at Linfield.
“I’ve had a great four years here,” says Bixenman, a business major with a 3.75 GPA who hopes to pursue a career in financial advising. “Its fun to win and you can see that it doesn’t just happen. You have to put in the hard work. We were 6-3 for two years. That’s considered successful at a lot of places but not here. I’ve been able to see the offseason workouts change and the work ethic improve. Hard work pays off and it’s evident during my time here.”
Handling any role with poise and an understanding of what is best for the team, Bixenman’s time in the Linfield football program has been marked by success both on and off the field. As he finishes his senior season with the football team and moves into the spring with the baseball program, Bixenman continues to embody the prototypical Linfield athlete, all while doing what he came here to do in the first place: A whole lot of winning.
- Eric Evenson '11
Backup QB always at the ready
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128