STILLWATER — During the mid-2000s, there was no better athlete to admire in Mustang than Josh Cooper.
A young David Glidden certainly took notice.
“If you were from Mustang and you didn't know Josh Cooper, people were kind of like, ‘Who are you? Are you new?'” Glidden said with a laugh. “He's definitely a guy to look up to.”
Cooper is more than that to Glidden now, as a friendship between the two Mustang guys developed during Glidden's recruitment to OSU and their year as teammates in Stillwater.
Now, it's Glidden who is poised to, in a sense, follow Cooper again. Last week, Glidden officially made his OSU debut by taking over the punt returner role previously held by Cooper. He, like Cooper, also plays slot receiver.
And when asked who at OSU he's learned the most from so far, Glidden, without hesitation, said “definitely Coop.”
“We already had a pretty good relationship coming in, and it just built over the year,” Glidden said. “He taught me the ropes on and off the field.”
Cooper was an all-around football star at Mustang, compiling nearly 200 catches and more than 3,000 receiving yards over his junior and senior seasons, while also excelling as a returner, defensive back and kicker. During that time, Cooper started to hear about Glidden — the younger brother of his teammate, Dylan — who was another multisport standout and was “just like (him)” on the football field because of their smaller build but huge ability to make plays at a variety of positions.
Cooper was understandably intrigued. So much so, that when rumors started to surface that David was considering quitting football in high school, Cooper tried to convince Dylan that David was good enough to earn a college scholarship if he stuck with the game.
David did, and went on to become the Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year while accounting for 26 total touchdowns — 17 receiving, four interception returns, four kickoff returns, one passing — as a senior.
“He was the talk of the town coming up, and he turned out to be an All-Star,” Cooper said.
And David and Cooper's lives kept crossing.
Cooper was David's host on his official visit to OSU and told the family he would be David's big brother in Stillwater if he committed to the Cowboys. When David made his pledge, one of the first congratulatory text messages he received was from Cooper.
“I'll never forget the day I committed,” David said. “…From Day 1, he let me know that he was there for me.”
That continued as soon David set foot on campus.
The first day of 7-on-7 summer workouts, Cooper immediately started teaching David how to run the correct routes in the Cowboys' spread offense. He told David about some of the unsung food joints around campus like Pita Pit. He'd invite David, fellow freshman inside receiver Josh Stewart and some of the other younger players over to his off-campus house to hang out and make new friends.
“It did so much for me, just comfort-wise,” David said. “Some guys come up here and may not know anybody here, really. He told me before I got here (that) he was going to be here and, ‘Just let me know if you need anything.'”
David redshirted last season and watched as Cooper finished his Cowboy career ranked in the top 10 in school history in both catches (fifth, 161) and receiving yards (eighth, 1,695) before latching on with the Cleveland Browns' practice squad.
Now, it's David's turn to — finally — see the field.
David missed the tail end of spring football, all of fall camp and the Cowboys' first two games because of nagging ankle and hamstring injuries. Cooper reminded David not to get discouraged, because he was hobbled by four injuries during his first two years of college football.
Cooper sees David being a successful inside receiver because he possesses strong route-running ability, solid hands and good speed. But where coaches believe he'll make the most impact this season is on punt returns. Last week, against Louisiana-Lafayette, he returned five punts for 19 yards in his first collegiate action.
“He gets under every ball, catches everything,” said OSU wide receivers coach Kasey Dunn, who also coaches punt and kick returners. “And he'll make that first guy miss. It's hard to see that little joker back there, too.”
And Cooper and David still check in with each other frequently. David shot Cooper a text message in August to see how training camp was going. Cooper did the same last week when he found out David would be playing against Louisiana-Lafayette, reminding him that college players would fly down the field after a punt returner much faster than high schoolers. They might even get to catch up in person next week, as Cooper is considering coming back to Stillwater for the OSU-Texas game.
David is thankful for the hometown mentor and friend he has in Cooper. And Cooper believes David has a great chance to carry on the Mustang tradition and make his own impact at OSU.
“He has potential to be a great receiver, great returner,” Cooper said. “As much as I could teach him (when we were teammates), I'd do anything I could to help him out.”