Mounds View senior Cole Jacobs is a lefthanded-shooting forward on the boys’ hockey team. He’s a self-described playmaker with speed and sees the ice well.
“He’s a really good teammate,” said Ryne Mohrman, a Mustangs junior defenseman. “He has a ton of energy. He wants to win just as bad as everyone else.”
Jacobs was born with a life-threatening liver disease called biliary atresia and had a liver transplant at 9 years old. One out of 18,000 babies are diagnosed with the disease, which can be fatal if not detected early in an infant’s life.
He was on the transplant list for nearly all his life. Then he got the call on New Years Eve 2009 and received a liver transplant.
“There was definitely a lot of relief, but it was also really scary,” Jacobs said.
He watched Wild games during a recovery that he said was both motivating and tough. Six weeks later, he was back on the ice shooting the puck around.
“It was hard for me to stand. I was really weak,” Jacobs said. “But obviously, that’s all I wanted to do after just laying in a hospital bed. I just wanted to get on the ice as soon as possible and just get back to playing the sport I love.”
The only setback came a few years later when his body was rejecting his liver during his freshman year — once he hit puberty. Medication adjustments helped, and once that was resolved, his hockey game hasn’t been hindered at all.
Jacobs has been a hockey player since age 2, playing on the backyard pond.
“So my dad just threw a pair of skates on me and brought me out there,” Jacobs said. “It was just love at first ice, I guess.”
He played youth hockey in Wayzata before joining Providence Academy his freshman year, then becoming a Mustang as a sophomore.
First-year Mustangs coach Adam Schmidt saw Jacobs skate last summer and had no idea about the health issues until Jacobs’ mother told him.
“I’ve put it on my radar, but I’ve tried really hard not to make it an issue,” Schmidt said. “Because I don’t think Cole wants it to be a distraction or an issue.
“He just wants to be Cole Jacobs, one of the guys. Not Cole Jacobs, the guy with the liver transplant.”
Mohrman has played with Jacobs since youth hockey in Wayzata and at Providence Academy. He didn’t know about Jacobs’ health issues right away, either.
“I don’t know why, but it kind of showed that he didn’t pay attention to it,” Mohrman said. “He just wanted to go out there and win.”
Jacobs, with one goal and four assists this season, has a knack for creating scoring chances for himself and his teammates. At 6-1, he’s one of the taller, lanky kids on the squad, with a long skating stride, according to Schmidt. He handles the puck well, but Schmidt would like to see him shoot more and score a few more goals. Jacobs agreed.
The Mustangs are just 2-9 this season, riding a seven-game skid into the new calendar year. Schmidt is looking forward to January when he hopes the Mustangs will establish their team identity.
“Right now is a great time for Cole to step up and be that leader for our team,” Schmidt said.
As far as his health, Jacobs has annual check-ups at the Mayo Clinic and a biopsy every five years. He said he doesn’t reflect back on his transplant experience too much, just “here and there.”
“But other than that, I just basically go to the rink every day and just live my life,” Jacobs said.