Flying high: Rocky receiver Cattelan also has a passion for aviation

2014-08-21T19:30:00Z 2014-08-22T12:21:05Z Flying high: Rocky receiver Cattelan also has a passion for aviationBy BILL BIGHAUS bbighaus@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

As a wide receiver and student pilot at Rocky Mountain College, Cole Cattelan can't wait for this football season and school year to take off.

The fifth-year senior from Billings is one of the top returning pass-catchers for the No. 9-ranked Battlin' Bears. He is also well on his way to receiving his commercial pilot's license as an aviation major.

"It hasn't been easy, that's for sure," Cattelan, 22, said of his participation in two of the school's biggest programs. "But if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."

He is certainly proof of that.

Along with already gaining his private pilot's license and instrument rating, the former Billings Central athlete has also reeled in nearly 100 passes over the past two seasons for Rocky, which opens its season on Aug. 30 with a nonconference game at Dickinson State.

"You put tons of hours into football with lifting, meetings, practice and games," Cattelan said. "Then you do the same thing with aviation, with preflighting, studying all of the procedures, checklists and doing all of the weight and balance (calculations).

"The actual flying takes some time, as well."

A tough, sure-handed competitor on the football field, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder finished with 54 receptions for 783 yards and five touchdowns last fall for the Bears, who compiled an 8-4 record and reached the NAIA playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Now Rocky is aiming to achieve a third consecutive winning season, which would be a record for a program dating to 1949.

"You know what I like, we have 10 fifth-year seniors back, I believe, which is always great," Cattelan said. "All of us have put in a lot of time, blood, sweat and tears in this program. I think that's something -- in the clutch -- that will help us get through."

Cattelan, an NAIA Scholar-Athlete with his 3.57 GPA and a double major of aviation and business, was Rocky's second-leading receiver a year ago, and still ranks as the team's lone aviator.

"It crazy to believe that I can go out and rent my own aircraft and fly by myself," he said. "It's a little scary, actually."

Cattelan, a 2010 graduate of Central, was a football and basketball standout for the Rams.

He said he has been curious about flying since a young age, mystified over how something as large as a plane could stay airborne.

"They took me up on an introductory flight when I was on my recruiting visit," he said of Rocky. "It was love at first sight."

He made his first solo flight in 2011, has flown by himself to Dickinson and back and will likely fly as many as three times a week this fall as he pursues his ambition to become a commercial pilot.

"It's a great experience," he said. "I'd recommend it to anyone."

Away from the school's Piper Archer and Beechcraft Bonanza planes, Cattelan has also turned out to be quite a catch as a gritty, inside receiver.

He is known for making leaping sideline grabs, and also eluding linebackers while converting short passes over the middle for big yardage.

"The biggest compliment I can give him is that he's a guy you can count on," Rocky coach Brian Armstrong said. "He's a guy that's going to be in the right spot and is going to make the play when the ball is thrown to him or make the block.

"Just competitive," he added. "Very quiet, unassuming, not a vocal guy. I'm trying to get him to be more vocal, honestly. Just a man's man. A guy that takes care of his business in a first-class manner."

After redshirting in 2010, the patient Cattelan didn't come up with his first official catch for Rocky until the 2012 season. He's now one of the Bears' favorite targets.

"That's just kind of what I want to let the younger guys know," he said. "Just keep working hard. They'll find a spot for you out there if you just keep working."

The wide receiver corps, led by junior All-America selection Andre McCullouch, looks to be one of Rocky's most seasoned and deepest positions this fall.

The fast-paced Bears, who averaged 35 points per game last season, return six of their top seven pass-catchers from a year ago, along with fifth-year senior quarterback Bryce Baker, a four-year starter who completed 70 percent of his passes last fall.

"Bryce knows where I'm going to be and it seems like he finds me at the right time," Cattelan said. "We've been playing with each other for three-plus years, so I mean we're on the same page. It's nice having that chemistry built up."

The Bears, picked to finish second behind Carroll College in the Frontier Conference race this fall, are plenty motivated.

"After what last year's seniors did, the expectations are pretty high," Cattelan said. "We just want to raise the bar even higher for the next group."

Beginning with Dickinson, Rocky will play its first three games on the road before hosting No. 2-ranked Carroll on Sept. 20.

"Starting off with three road games is not easy, but it's something we're going to have to face and overcome," Cattelan said. "A little adversity is good for everyone."

Except, maybe, for a pilot.

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