Feature Stories

After 7 years and 9 surgeries, this Long Beach Poly football coach walks again

Merle Cole Jr.

At Long Beach Poly High School’s college showcase on Tuesday evening, more than 20 college football coaches dotted the sideline of Burcham Field, including representatives from powerhouses like Alabama and Ohio State. The star of the show, however, was Merle Cole Jr., a longtime Poly assistant and youth football coach in Long Beach.

He sat in his familiar blue Rascal scooter for the first few minutes of the workout and then stood, drawing smiles and applause from former Poly players on hand.

It was a simple action, with a deep meaning for those who know and love Cole.

“That means a lot to me, Merle,” said Darrell Rideaux, an All-American at Poly and USC. “To see you walk again, that’s amazing.”

Cole has spent his adult life teaching the boys and girls of Long Beach how to run, yet the longtime football and track coach has been unable to walk for the past seven years…