The offers and interest Fahn Cooper receives on a daily basis are nothing like three years ago.
Cooper started at left tackle for Crystal Lake South and his size alone – 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds – warranted looks from NCAA Division I recruiters. But looking back now, Cooper knows he could have done more.
“In high school, I never really saw the potential in myself and took things as seriously as I should have,” Cooper said. “By the time I started to bloom and become a very talented football player, I was a senior and schools came through to look at [linemates] Jake Bernstein and Phil Hespen. I was overlooked, and it was all on me. I kind of saw this as an opportunity to rectify all that.”
Cooper landed at D-I Bowling Green, a strong program in the Mid-American Conference, but a place at which he never was truly happy. Even after starting 13 games as a redshirt freshman, Cooper wanted a change.
The 2011 South graduate transferred to College of DuPage this summer and has flourished as the Chaparrals left tackle. He has about 20 D-I offers – with Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas Tech topping the list – and more rolling in. Cincinnati, Boise State, Kentucky and Oregon State are some of the other top schools which have offered.
Cooper is making the most of his “do-over.”
By January, he likely will be at a major D-I school getting ready for spring practices. In two more years, DuPage assistant head coach Kenny DuBose, the Chaparrals recruiting coordinator, thinks Cooper could be headed for the NFL.
“It’s interesting. The biggest thing to me is when these schools come in is this is a whole different experience,” Cooper said. “In high school, I had Bowling Green and Ohio. Now, it’s schools like Texas A&M. This kind of things those schools have in terms of fan support and alumni and competition is something I kind of always wanted to be a part of.”
Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson balked at giving Cooper (6-5, 305) his release last winter, but told him after the spring semester he would release him. DuBose, who formerly coached at Harper College in Palatine, called former South running back Bolek Mikulec and they talked about Cooper.
“I used to live in Cary, so I knew about Fahn,” DuBose said. “I thought he could get 50 scholarship offers if he came here. Because we had a kid, Matt Finnin, last year who ended up at Nebraska. At the same stage, Fahn is a better football player.”
DuBose had heard stories from other players, who, like Cooper, did not care for Clawson’s constant hard line.
“Coach Clawson is a very serious guy and very intense,” DuBose said. “Fahn was really down on his relationship with him there. They are a hard, direct staff and the way Fahn’s made up, that didn’t work for him. I told him, ‘If you come here, make sure academics are the most important thing in your life. You’ll be shocked by the schools that will recruit you,’ because he’s an NFL kid.”
Cooper spoke with his parents, Alfred and Caroline. He spoke with South coach Chuck Ahsmann. He spoke with former Bowling Green receiver James Brown, an Evanston product who had transferred to DuPage a year earlier.
By playing at the junior college level, Cooper could play the season and not lose any eligibility.
Chaparrals head coach Matt Foster, whose 5-2 team hosts Iowa Central at 1 p.m. Saturday, hardly could believe his team’s god fortune.
“We’re blessed to have [Cooper] here,” Foster said. “He’s a great leader, he does it by his actions. His pass-blocking is exceptional, which the way the game’s played today is a big thing [college coaches] are looking for. He has tremendous athletic ability and potential, because he’s only going to keep getting better.”
Although Cooper did not love Bowling Green, he learned plenty and became a better athlete. Foster said Cooper was on the radar of numerous schools after the transfer.
“He’s where he needs to be,” DuBose said. “I know the Bernstein kid is the one everybody went nuts about [in high school]. I would venture to say Fahn is stronger and more athletic than that kid right now. Coming out of high school, it wasn’t even close [Bernstein was ahead].”
Bernstein is Vanderbilt’s starting left guard for the second season. Hespen, who also started on that South line for an 11-1 team, starts at D-I Drake. Cooper is eager to visit Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
“Those are my top two schools,” Cooper said. “Texas Tech wants me bad and feels like I can make an impact right away. They’re undefeated in the Big 12 [Conference] and coach Kliff Kingsbury’s in his first year and a really cool guy. I would definitely love to play for him.
“At the same time, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is awesome and a great coach who I have a lot of respect for. It would be hard to pass up playing for either one of them. Once I get a chance to check out Texas A&M, I feel like I’ll be ready to make my decision.”
Cooper will be ready to provide an immediate impact wherever he lands, knowing that’s what big schools recruiting junior colleges expect.
“I started games against Virginia Tech and Florida, and in the MAC we had some tough guys,” Cooper said. “My biggest upside is what I can bring to their team.”