KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville native Cole Strange became the first NFL Draft pick in the 40-year high school coaching career of Farragut’s Eddie Courtney when he was selected in the first round Thursday night.

Strange was selected No. 29 by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. According to ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Strange had a 2nd round grade entering the draft on Thursday.

“Strange made 44 starts in college and showed at the Senior Bowl that he could play with the best of the best,” Kiper said.

He becomes the earliest draft pick from UT-Chattanooga in program history, well surpassing Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens who was drafted 89th overall in the 1996 NFL Draft.

Strange was a two-star prospect coming out of high school but started for five seasons on the Chattanooga offensive line. He was named an FCS All-American in 2021 and was the Jacobs Blocking Award Winner as the top offensive lineman in the Southern Conference in 2020.

Farragut played him at linebacker, defensive end, and at tight end in high school. He earned All-State honors and was named the KIL Defensive Player of the Year. 

“I’ve been coaching a long time, but Cole is special, he really is,” said Farragut Head Football Coach Eddie Courtney. “Cole has always worked extremely hard. He’s got that blue-collar mentality, smart kid. But football has been his passion.”