NFL Draft Pick Cooper Kupp Prepares for Impactful Career

Cooper Kupp plays football with immeasurable conviction, saying, “It all goes back to why I’m here. God created me to play this game. That is where my fuel comes from. Everything I do is to glorify God and I’m playing for nothing but Him. When I step on the field I can feel His pleasure."

The first steps that brought the under-recruited Yakima prospect to Cheney, Washington, eventually led Cooper to break every major career, pass-receiving record in college football – And fittingly on Eastern Washington’s red turf, frequently leaving opponents blushing. Cooper says, “I’m always going to look back and think that wasn’t enough. I’m not good enough yet. I need to continue to work and continue to get better to the best of my ability and that goes all the way back to how I view myself as a player and the work I’ve put in.”   

His eye-popping production as a four-year starter made highlights, but Cooper’s route running, football IQ, leadership and sure hands sold NFL teams. Arguably the best slot receiver in April’s 2017 draft, Cooper became the Los Angeles Rams third-round pick. “I believe I can play in the NFL, I want to play this game at a very high level”, Cooper says, “because I believe that’s where God put me. As I move into this next year, my wife and I, we want to be a part of that. We want to step into that role fully, be a light for God. We’re excited to be a part of a great city, a great organization, be surrounded by great people.”

For Cooper, there’s artistry to the game.  He explains that “football in itself and the position I play - just like in art - there’s no one way to do it. Everyone has their own style, their own little nuances. And for me it’s about being able to grab from different people, being able to put together what’s my style going to be and take tricks from everyone I can. And to do it to the best of my ability and to do it as pretty as possible.”       

What makes for great route running? Cooper says, “One is precision. Timing. Understanding where the quarterback wants you to be and getting there at that time. And so there’s all these things that go into it. A lot of it’s just developing that chemistry with the quarterback. I want to be a crisp route runner. That’s going to be a part of my game and who I am as a player.”    

Undersized as a high school freshman, the guy they call “Coop” outworked teammates with his focus never wavering. “There was never a point where I believed that I couldn’t do what I believed I could”, Cooper recalls. “I had friends that kind of written me off. I had coaches that had literally told me - you need to lower your expectations for yourself that you’re not going to be able to do these things. I still had my faith in God and what I believed His plans were for me. I had my family here to encourage me and push me. And that was a huge thing for me.”   

The Kupp family is close! Mom, Karen and Cooper’s dad, Craig - have been fixtures through Cooper’s football development, drawing from both Craig and Grandpa Jake’s NFL careers. How has the NFL bloodline helped shape his mindset?  Cooper says, “I was very lucky to have a dad and grandpa that have the same passion that I do, that have played at a very high level. They’ve instilled in me not just what the work it takes and respect you have to have for the game, but also understanding that there is an opportunity to reach out and have your hand on the lives of people that might be less fortunate than you.”  

During their senior year after Cooper and Anna married, the couple offered support to incoming freshman who were transitioning to collegiate life. Cooper recalls, “I remember what I was like when I came in as a freshman. There’s a football fraternity and wanting to be a part of that so badly and going to these parties, hanging out with people that aren’t going down paths that match up with my goals for myself. There’s no fulfillment there. And so my wife and I just put a barbeque on for just the freshmen. Just encouraging them to surround themselves with guys that understand that, that are going to push them to pursue something greater than that in their life.” Cooper’s wife Anna explains, “that was something Cooper and I really wanted to be – just a solid place to come to or go to. And to love them and to allow them to know Cooper is there for them.”

Is there a similarity between running routes and following Him?  Cooper responds, “Yeah. I think there is, actually. When you start a play, there’s a route. There’s a path that you’re going to be on. And there’s a lot of things, a lot of people that are going to be trying to take you off of this path. If you start drifting downfield, you got a safety taking your head off. There are repercussions right on either side of you because they understand when you’re off that path, you’re not pursuing great plans there are ahead, the plans that God has for you. I’m walking this path just like so many of my Christian brothers and sisters are. And I strive for my relationship with Christ to become closer every day and there are battles every day. But to know that God’s grace is plentiful as it is sufficient is going to fill that. And I’ve experienced it throughout my entire life. And will continue to just become more and more aware of how great that is.”  

When asked how he will define his NFL success, Cooper says, “I’m going to pursue being the best player I can be. And part of t hat is being able to produce. Part of that is being able to win championships. But when I look back, when I walk off the field I’m going to know I’ve given everything I can. I’ve been the best teammate, I’ve been the best player, I’ve been the best man off the fields to my family, to this community, to my wife. And I’ve put everything I have into this and I’ve walked the walk to the best of my ability. And as long as I know I’ve done that, that’s going to be plenty for me.”

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