BY DARREN REESE
Over four years ago, Tusculum offensive coordinator Marc Kolb sat down and wrote a page-and-a-half e-mail to a young gun-slinging quarterback out of Cincinnati.
The coach followed that up with a phone call not long after.
Little did Kolb know, he was laying the welcoming foundation for a player who would eventually become the most prolific passer Tusculum - and soon the South Atlantic Conference - has ever known.
Bo Cordell quickly formed a trusting relationship from those first contacts he received from Kolb, and eventually decided to continue his football career with the Pioneers.
Fast forward to present day and Cordell needs just 46 yards in Tusculum's home game against UNC-Pembroke Saturday to become the all-time leading passer in SAC history.
"(Early on in the recruiting process), I thought I might be a (NCAA Division I) guy," Cordell said. "(But) they said I didn't have a strong enough arm, not tall enough, not fast enough. I love to prove people wrong.
"I'm blessed to be at Tusculum. I had a really good relationship with my high school coach and I wanted the same thing with my coaches (wherever I went to college). That's what I was able to do."
Barring any unforeseen circumstances Saturday, Cordell will pass the mark of 10,937 yards set by Todd Cunningham of Presbyterian back in 1998-2001.
But with a year and a half left in his Tusculum career, Cordell - who received an extra year of eligibility after missing eight games last season due to a broken foot - has a chance to put the record out of reach.
In fact, he has a realistic opportunity to break Zach Amedro's (West Liberty) NCAA Division II record of 14,733 yards before he takes off the Pioneer uniform for the last time.
For the humble Cordell, though, those numbers are the farthest things from his mind.
"We play in a showtime offense, so a lot of people are going to break records," Cordell said. "I don't set personal goals with statistics. If we need to run the ball 40-50 times to win a game, then that's what I want to do."
Cordell enjoyed probably the best individual season in Tusculum history two years ago. He threw for a SAC single-season record 4,657 yards and 38 touchdowns and finished fourth in the voting for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which goes to the Division II Player of the Year.
Big things were expected again last season. But three games into the schedule, the Pioneers found out just how tough life could be without their star quarterback.
Cordell dropped back to pass in the fourth quarter of a game at North Greeneville. It was a routine play - one that he didn't even get hit on. But Cordell planted his right foot awkwardly on the drop and instantly heard a crack.
He didn't know how serious it was at the time. He even continued playing and finished the game.
Tusculum lost to the Crusaders on that fateful Saturday. But the following Monday, the bad news was compounded.
"I told someone after the game that I thought my foot was broken," Cordell said. "I didn't know it at the time, I just had a feeling."
His fear turned out to be accurate. Cordell was sidelined the rest of the season and Tusculum struggled to a 3-8 final record.
"It was just a freak thing," he said. "I think it was God's will. It's his plan, and I think I'm better off for it."
At first, the adjustment to having to stand helplessly on the sideline was hard for Cordell. "It was just awful," he said.
But soon he realized that he could continue to help the team in a positive way and improve his own quarterbacking skills in the process.
He became like an additional coach to the Pioneers' staff. He watched from the sideline. He watched from the pressbox. He studied defenses and gained a better understanding of why Kolb called the plays that he did during certain situations.
"It was just like watching game film, except it was live," Cordell said. "(Coach Kolb and I) really got on the same page, and that has helped me and the team out this year."
Kolb also believes last year made a tremendous positive impact on Cordell, and he has noticed a difference this season.
"He's smarter," Kolb said. "He saw the game from a different perspective and I think that has really changed how he looks at some things this year."
Trying to figure out the intricacies of different defenses is what Cordell loves most about the position.
He started doing it back as a grade schooler after a victory in a longest-throw competition earned him the starting quarterback job on his Little League team. Before that he played on the offensive line.
"I was a guard the first year I played football," Cordell remembered. "The next year, they were going to move me to center and I was all excited because it meant I would get to touch the football on every play."
Fate always has a way of stepping in. Cordell was a natural-born quarterback, from his throwing ability to his leadership and dedication qualities.
He later threw for 8,271 yards in high school, which was fourth-best in state history in Ohio.
During his time as a starter at Indian Hill High, he led the team to four league championships and a 36-8 overall record.
That's the one thing Cordell wants to do before he leaves Tusculum - lead the Pioneers to a conference championship. The team went just 6-5 during his record-breaking 2010 campaign.
"Until we win all of our games, I won't be content," Cordell said. "We've broken a lot of records here, put up a lot of stats. But one thing we haven't done is win a lot while I've been here. I want to change that."
And while Cordell is most known for his football accolades, he is as equally impressive off the field.
He was nominated for the 2012 AFCA Good Works Team after volunteering with such organizations as the Niswonger Children's Hospital, Holston Home for Children, and Habitat for Humanity.
He also stayed in Greeneville this past summer to intern at Landair. He is majoring in business administration with a minor in international business.
Just for good measure, Cordell also plays the saxophone and was a member of his high school's jazz band.
"He is just a great person," Tusculum head coach Frankie DeBusk said. "He is very, very deserving. I hope he can surpass the record and keep rolling."
"For him, I know the big thing is to win ball games. That's all he really wants to do."