Cole Hikutini was in for a surprise when he stepped off the airplane during his first recruiting visit to Louisville in January 4, 2015. “I was kind of shocked,” he recalled. “I didn’t know it snowed here or that it got so cold. I was wearing shorts, it was 4 degrees outside, and my bag was missing.”

Hikutini, who played in junior college at City College of San Francisco, would get over it quickly, committing a few days later to play football for Bobby Petrino at the University of Louisville.

Cole Hikutini quickly warmed up to Louisville during the recruiting process (Cindy Rice Shelton photo)>
Cole Hikutini quickly warmed up to Louisville during the recruiting process (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“Immediate playing time was available and I liked the way Coach Petrino uses his tight ends,” he said.  “I am a receiving and blocking tight end. The more I can bring to the table the better.  I try to do everything I can to help us win.

He’s loving every minute of this season at UofL, embracing a goal of being the best team in the country. “Everyone is is on the same page,” he said. “We’re all clicking on offense and defense, firing on all cylinders right now.”

Hikutini has become one of quarterback Lamar Jackson’s favorite targets, catching 27 passes for 393 yards and touchdowns through the first seven games. In UofL’s 54-13 win over North Carolina State, he had 118 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.

Hikutini has taken a lot of ribbing for attempting a Lamar Jackson-type hurdle over an NC State defender on Saturday, almost landing on his head. “I was running hard and I thought he was going to go low,” he said. “Lot’s of ribbing, teammates making fun of me. But that’s okay.”

The San Francisco native says he has incredible respect for Jackson. “It’s ridiculous how accurate he is. He has improved so much in the last year,” he said. “Lamar is a great quarterback and a down-to-earth kid. He’s killing it right now.

He would like for UofL to get into the playoffs but knows there are a lot of variables. “We can’t really control other teams’ wins or losses. We have to go there, dominate and win every game from here on out. That’s all we can do.

“I love the football team, the dynamic we have in the locker room. There’s great chemistry. It’s so competitive, all we want to do is win. I love it here.”

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

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