Most of Ohio State’s freshmen early enrollees have discussed how excited they are to be a part of the Buckeye program. But for wide receiver Mookie Cooper, it’s a thrill just to be a part of a team again, period.
Cooper had to sit out his senior season of high school after transferring schools last summer. He had previously attended a Catholic school, but he wanted to graduate early and enroll in college in January instead of June.
“My school I went to, the Catholic schools in Missouri, you really can’t leave early,” Cooper said.
So he transferred to a public school, Pattonville Senior, that would let him do it. But he was ruled ineligible to play football during his senior season as a result. That news hit Cooper hard.
“No lie, I walked out of the office, I just walked out and I cried for probably like four weeks straight,” Cooper said.
One particularly difficult day was when he found out he could no longer play in the Under Armour all-American game because he hadn’t played in the fall. Cooper said he spent a lot of time talking to a counselor at his school about what he was going through.
Losing something that defines you like being a star football player can be a turning point in a person’s life.
“A lot of people, you got a year off of not doing something, certain people they might just sit around, have fun with it. It just tells you how much you really want it,” he said.
Cooper didn’t just sit around. He talked to OSU wide receiver coaches Brian Hartline and Keenan Bailey and figured out what he needed to do to be as prepared as possible for his college career.
“Coach Hart and Coach Keenan, they just basically told me, the biggest thing was try to be in shape before I get here,” Cooper said. “During the week, I only lifted and ran most of the time, and I hit the field on weekends.”
Now, he’s hoping all that work and sacrifice will pay off. He’s going through offseason workouts, and trying to get as ready as he can for spring practice.
Players don’t usually use words like “fun” to describe the Buckeyes’ winter workouts, but for Cooper, it’s just great to be a part of a team again.
“That was the best part. Just being around a bunch of other guys my age, everybody doing the same sport,” he said.
Cooper is expected to play at the inside receiver spot known as the ‘H’ in Ohio State’s offense. It’s the same position where players like Parris Campbell and KJ Hill have excelled in recent years. It’s also a natural fit for a player like Cooper who’s listed as 5-foot-9, about a half-foot shorter than many of the outside guys. But he makes up for that in other ways.
“Speed. Making people miss a lot,” said Cooper. “I make plays happen.”
He isn’t the only receiver on Ohio State’s roster who had to sit out his senior season of football in high school. Chris Olave was caught up in a similar situation during his senior year out in California, but came in and made a quick impact once he got to Columbus. Cooper wants to do the same thing.
“I expect to get on the field. I’m not gonna say I’m gonna start, but I expect to get on the field,” he said.
“There’s some guys ahead of me, but I feel like the way our receiver room and how it works, I feel like I’m gonna be able to get some reps in, learn from the older guys and just be able to develop. And when my time fully comes in, that’s when my time comes.“