Born to Be Bubba

updated 06/20/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/20/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

YOU MIGHT THINK MIKE COLE IS CURRENTLY the biggest thing in country music just because he's, well, big. At 6'2" and 290 lbs., Cole, 38, a district sales manager for Coca-Cola in Dallas, bears more than a passing resemblance to the late Junior Samples of Hee Haw. But Cole has more than bulk to offer. Ever since he showed off his footwork as the quickstepping hillbilly Bubba in the video for Shenandoah's No. 1 country single "If Bubba Can Dance, I Can Too," Cole has been hotter than Texas in August. Crowds greet him at record store appearances. Radio stations are staging Bubba look-alike contests. And his face is turning up on T-shirts all over. "The phone is ringing off the hook, and everywhere I go people recognize me," marvels Cole, who lives with his wife of 18 years, Donna, a first-grade teacher, and daughter Ashley, 7, in Waxaha-chie, Texas. Jokes Cole's pal Troy Aikman, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback: "He's bigger than Elvis."

Aikman knew Cole from the Dallas charity circuit (where Cole provided free soft drinks) and introduced him to the band in 1993. Aikman had appeared in Shenandoah's "Leavin's Been a Long Time Comin' " video in 1992, and when Cole heard about the Bubba video, he saw his own chance to shine. "I knew I could do Bubba better than any actor," says Cole. At first, the band was wary ("I kind of snickered when he asked," admits lead singer Marly Raybon), but when Cole, who'd practiced for weeks, hit the floor with his own style of country line dancing—including Saturday Night Fever-type moves—he was Bubba. "I saw the director smile, then he started laughing," says Cole.

Since his success, Cole has hired an agent and is mulling offers for a Bubba calendar and an exercise video. But no chance he'll get carried away. "I won't quit my job," says Cole. "But I'm gonna have fun with this as long as I can."

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