‘When It’s Over, it’s Over,’ And Cooper Isn’t Ready For That Just Yet
By Mason Kelley
Deontae Cooper has been interviewed so many times since he arrived at Washington he decided it was his turn to ask a few questions.
“People get all these questions, but they don’t ask about how the other people are doing,” Cooper said. “How are you doing? Do you have a story you want to tell me?”
Unfortunately for the running back, though, his story is much more compelling, which is why he tends to be the one providing the answers.
His willingness to turn the tables on a reporter says something about the senior from Perris, Calif. Eloquent and humble, confident and determined, Cooper is the kind of player and person who seems destined to do well both on the field and in whatever career he chooses after football.
The only thing that has held him back since enrolling at the university in 2010 – his knees. He has suffered three tears in his anterior cruciate ligament – two right, one left. But, now in his second straight healthy season, there is so much more to share than the state of his knees.
When asked where his story should start, Cooper asked, “What would be good for the readers?”
Well, did you know he has a twin brother playing college football? Deontrae Cooper is currently a receiver at Colorado State-Pueblo. Only one letter separates the siblings’ names.
When asked about their relationship, Deontae started to laugh. Growing up, they weren’t that close.
“When his room was next door to mine, he used to always get on my nerves,” he said.
These days, though, “We’re so close right now it’s crazy. He’s one of my best friends that I’m sure I can count on at any time.”
The fraternal twins looked alike when they were younger. Their features changed as they aged. The one thing that has remained a constant, though, is their sibling rivalry.
“Oh yeah, no doubt,” said Cooper, whose brother will be in the stands this weekend when Washington plays at Colorado. “He’s always talking about who’s faster, who’s stronger, stuff like that. We’re very competitive. I won a lot of the battles, but he was always there competing with me in anything we did.”
What comes next?
Now in his fifth school year, Cooper has already graduated with a degree in ethnic studies and communications. He continues to take classes as he tries to put himself in the best possible position for whatever comes next.
“Right now I’m just looking at the credits I have,” Cooper said. “The route I’m taking now, I might just get a sales certificate or finish up and get another major.”
He wants to get into a graduate program next year, but after all the adversity he has faced, he doesn’t plan too far into the future.
“When football’s all said and done, I don’t know what’s next,” Cooper said. “I’m just kind of feeling it out, seeing what I like to do. I know I like to interact. I’m a people person, so I’m really not worried.
“I’m nervous, because I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know whatever I do, I’m going to be good at it.”
Cooper believes he will succeed at anything life throws his way, because he has endured so much through football. He understands that life tends to change when someone least expects it so, “I try to live in the moment.”
Every now and then, Cooper does look back. He has been at Washington long enough to sit back and think, “Man, what was it like when I first got here compared to now?”
He has spent so much time around the program trainers, coaches and teammates are quick with old-man jokes.
“I can’t walk into the locker room without getting an old joke,” Cooper said with a laugh.
Between his age and penchant for making sure his hair is what teammate Jaydon Mickens would describe at “nice and precise,” Cooper is often on the receiving end of a well-timed joke.
“It’s all fun and games,” he said.
During his time at Washington, Cooper has sought out success in the classroom and in the community, but he is still working toward consistent success on the field. Over six games last season, he rushed for 270 yards and three touchdowns. He has 175 yards on 31 carries to go with 11 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown so far in 2014.
“It’s been good,” he said, describing the year so far. “I’m adjusting to the new staff and having more of a role than last year, playing a lot more, continuing to work and wait for that breakout game.”
Working and waiting for that breakout game keeps pushing Cooper forward.
“That’s what we all dream of,” he said. “That’s what we all work for. It’s on its way.”
Cooper took a step in that direction last week after earning his first collegiate start.
“It’s a taste,” Cooper said. “A taste of something you want to experience often.”
When the season comes to a close, Cooper has a choice to make. He has the option of coming back for one more season. He could also decide he has been through enough. He could walk away from the game.
As long as his knees will carry him through one more year, Cooper plans to play.
“There’s no rush to leave this university,” he said. “I love it here. I love the coaches. I love my teammates.”
Each time Cooper puts on his uniform, he spends time making sure each piece of his uniform looks right.
“You look good, you play good,” he said. “That’s kind of what I’ve lived by for a long time.”
He knows that one day he will have to leave football behind, but he isn’t ready for that just yet.
“Once you move forward, you can’t come back to the University of Washington and play football again,” he said. “When it’s over, it’s over.”