Despite injury, Cooper has no regrets about Auburn

Published 4:00 am Saturday, December 31, 2011

When the Auburn Tigers take to the field tonight at 7:30 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia, former W.S. Neal Eagle Jared Cooper will be missing in action in his final collegiate game.
Cooper’s senior season came to an end in the Tigers sixth game of the 2011 season in the first quarter against Arkansas.
“I was blocking a linebacker, and one of their defensive tackles fell on my heel from behind, which did all the damage,” Cooper said. “It’s called a lisfranc injury, which in a nutshell means that it tore the ligaments that held the bones in my foot together.”
The Tigers, who were 4-1 at the time, lost to the Razorbacks 38-14 and would go 3-3 in their final six games to finish the season 7-5.
Cooper had surgery on his foot and is currently doing rehab.
“There was actually a few days where we thought that we might be able to avoid surgery, so I had a little while to come to grips with the alternative,” he said. “I was obviously really disappointed when I found out, but at the same time, you have to think about life after football. After we laid out all the options, it was pretty apparent that going in and fixing it was the best route.”
Cooper said rehab is going fine, but there is one bad thing about it.
“It’s just a slow process,” he said. “It’s pretty tough trying to be patient, but it will definitely be worth it to not have any problems with it later on in life. Goes to show, there’s nothing a few screws won’t fix.”
There had been little hope that Cooper would be able to make the Tigers’ bowl game and to be able to play in one more game, but those dreams soon faded.
“The bowl game is pretty well out of the equation,” he said. “It was kind of wishful thinking, because this type of injury takes so long to heal. At this point, I’m just getting used to walking on it again, so actually playing would definitely be pushing it.”
After signing out of high school with the Tigers in 2007, Cooper battled and waited patiently to finally have his chance to start for the Tigers in 2011.
In 2007, Cooper was red shirted, and in 2008, he saw limited playing time in six games logging snaps against Louisiana Monroe in the season opener, West Virginia and UT-Martin. He also saw time in SEC games against Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. Also in the 2008 season, he made the SEC Academy Honor Roll.
In 2009, Cooper made the honor roll for a second straight year and saw playing time in every game on special teams. He had four knockdown blocks in extended playing time against Furman.
In 2010, he played in every game, primarily on special teams for the Tigers, and was on the National Championship team.
There are 15 seniors on the Auburn football team, including walk-ons and junior college transfers. But of the 15, Cooper is one of five scholarship players who signed with the Tigers four or more years ago.
Those seniors went through a coaching change from Tommy Tuberville to current Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, who is in his third season as head coach at Auburn. While at Auburn, Cooper and the other Tigers have celebrated a national championship, an SEC championship and three bowl games.
“Sure, it was pretty frustrating that my career would be over half way through the season, Cooper said. “But, at the same time, though, I feel like I’ve been extremely blessed to have experienced everything that I have while I’ve been at Auburn. Between winning the National Championship last year, lettering for four years, and being able to be a starter in the SEC, I feel like complaining about being injured would be pretty unnecessary.”
Cooper said his career at Auburn has been surreal.
“I feel like I’ve seen all that the football world has to offer, the highest highs and the lowest lows,” he said. “I think that that’s very beneficial, because you can’t truly appreciate the best things in life without experiencing some things on the other end of the spectrum along the way. It’s definitely prepared me for the real world, and I’ve done a lot of growing up over the past five years.”
Two memories stand out most for Cooper.
“Because I was on the field goal team last year for the last kick of the National Championship game, I didn’t actually see the kick go through the uprights,” he said. “What I do remember though is the chaos that went on right after it went through. I can’t imagine having much more adrenaline going through anybody than we all had then. There was also the first time they announced my name in the starting lineup this year before the game, which was pretty emotional and exciting at the same time. It meant a lot to me, but I knew it meant as much if not more to my family.”
Cooper said Auburn has meant a lot to him in a lot of different ways.
“Obviously I’ve gotten a chance to do a good deal with football, but I’ve also learned a lot about life while I’ve been here,” Cooper said. “I also made a lot of good friends that I know I’ll keep in touch with for a long time to come.”
While his playing days at Auburn are now over, Cooper said his best piece of advice to any young person wanting to play college ball would be a part of the Auburn creed that players and coaches use every day at practice.
“At one point, there’s a part that says ‘I believe in work, hard work’ and every day at the end of practice or a workout, we break it down on ‘work, hard work,’” Cooper said. “The best thing about it is that you can apply it to all aspects of your life, not just football or things that are athletically related. Whether it’s academics, or anything else in life, hard work is the best and only way to have anything worthwhile.”
In the end, Cooper said he feels blessed to have been able to experience the things that he has been able to do at Auburn.
“My parents always taught my sister and me about staying strong in your faith and doing what’s right, and I’m extremely thankful to them and to God for helping me along the way,” he said.
Cooper is the son of Keith and Sue Cooper.

About Adam Robinson

My name is Adam Robinson and I have been the Sports Editor of the Brewton Standard since September 2007. I cover all the local sports in the Brewton area. I am a 2007 graduate of Troy University with a degree in Print Journalism with a contract in Sports Information. I married Shari Lynn in June of 2007 and we welcomed our first child, Hatlee, in April of 2010.

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