It's a sad truth that one of the most important players on a football team is usually forgotten. Jim Cooper Jr. might know that, but it doesn't seem like he cares because he was just named a U.S. Army All-American.
"My dad got the phone call saying I was selected, and he texted me," the Linwood (N.J.) Mainland Regional kicker said. "I was in gym class and had to break away for a minute and call him. Obviously, getting to represent people that fight for our country and wearing the U.S. Army name across your chest is a huge honor. It's a good feeling to know that all of the blood, sweat and tears have paid off in the long run. There's no other way I'd like to finish out my senior year. "
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How did Cooper go about getting chosen as a U.S. Army All-American?
"Obviously, solid game stats are important to getting selected, but I've also been doing kicker combines," he said. "It is a series of combines where I'm tested on things like hang time, distance and field goal percentage. I've been doing those for the past five years or so. I think those combines and the Football University camps have really helped me in getting selected as a U.S. Army All-American.
"My head coach is a firm believer in the kicking game, and my dad is the kicking coach at my high school," Cooper said. "My coach has given me a lot of attempts and lets me kick the ball deep on kickoffs, and those are things colleges look for when they are recruiting a kicker. That has allowed me to make a solid highlight tape.
"My dad has taught me everything I know. He was a kicker at Temple back in the '80s," said Cooper, who will also kick for the Owls. "We've been working on kicking since I was in second or third grade."
Why would a U.S. Army All-American want to go to Temple instead of another school where he could get more exposure?
"That's a valid question, and I hear that a lot," Cooper said. "Temple has been on TV quite a lot. I understand that Temple hasn't had the best of seasons, but we're definitely up and coming. I got a really good feeling with the coaches, and I trust them and think we're going to go places.
"I was interested in a bunch of schools, but once I went to Temple I really just fell in love with the campus," he said. "I love that it's only an hour away from home, and I got a really good feeling from the coaching staff when I met them. That means a lot because I need to have a good relationship with the coaching staff I'll be playing four years for.
"I went to their camp in early June, had a really good kicking performance," Cooper said. "A week or two later, I brought my entire family and we checked out the entire campus, the facilities and the coaches. I didn't want to commit to any school without knowing my family loved it as much as I did. When I sat down with my parents and coach, I felt really good about what was in front of me and thought it would be foolish to pass it up, so that's when I committed.
"They play at Lincoln Financial Field, which is the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, and I've been an Eagles fan since I could walk, so if I could share a stadium with my favorite NFL team, that would be a dream come true," he said. "On top of that, all of my family and friends could come to my games because I'm not too far away."
Happy with his college choice and grateful for the honor of being a U.S. Army All-American, Cooper sounds ready for what comes next.
"I'm just going to go down there and have a good time, represent my high school and Temple the best that I can," Cooper said. "I want to show the nation what type of player I am and how good a job my coaches have done to help me get there. I really just want to go down there and take it all in. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I won't take it for granted."