STILLWATER – An Oklahoma State wideout recorded one of the top-10 reception seasons in Cowboys history in 2010, establishing himself as a playmaker and landing a spot on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award.
Who knew? Exactly.
Should know, with Cooper's statistics readily available in various places. Yet with Justin Blackmon drawing major coverage – in the news and on the field – Cooper often gets overlooked.
“I've never understood why he gets zero pub,” said Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden. “It blows my mind that people don't talk about him. It's tough when you've got No. 81 (Blackmon), but Josh Cooper could be a No. 1 guy for three-fourths of the schools across the country.”
Just in the Big 12, a pass-happy league, Cooper's 68 catches were more than the leading receiver from six schools. That total, while coming as the secondary option to Blackmon, ranks No. 7 all-time at OSU.
“You know if it's man-to-man coverage Coop's going to be open,” Weeden said. “He doesn't bust assignments. He runs great routes. He's got great hands. He's tough.
“You name it, he does it. He's a special player.”
And he's especially suited for the slot, where his 5-foot-11 height isn't a drawback, and he can use his speed and quickness to beat safeties and linebackers.
It sure hasn't taken new Cowboys offensive coordinator Todd Monken long to appreciate Cooper's assets.
“Coop's really good,” Monken said. “He's an excellent route runner, good in space, can separate from defenders. He has an unbelievable role playing in the slot. It just makes him that much of a better player.
“And he likes playing football. And he's fun to be around. And he's competitive…”
And Monken seemed to want to go on and on.
Throughout the Cowboys locker room and coaches offices, Cooper commands that kind of respect and admiration. As a little guy, he's a tough guy. Throughout this preseason, he's worn a “hands-off” green target jersey typically reserved for quarterbacks – to protect him from himself. Cooper, who suffered a concussion in last year's game against Louisiana-Lafayette, doesn't shy from sticking his head into tough spots in practice.
Outside those walls, however, Cooper's work can be underappreciated.
Even among the OSU fan base, when talk spins beyond Blackmon, the buzz is typically focused on Hubert Anyiam or Michael Harrison or Tracy Moore or even a freshman such as Josh Stewart.
And while they all could be vital pieces to OSU's offense, none of those guys has produced like Cooper, who finally flourished once healthy for the first time in his career as a junior.
In the final 2010 Big 12 statistics, Cooper ranked 10th overall in the Big 12 in receptions per game. In conference-only games, he ranked No. 8, with 43 catches in eight games, with four of his five touchdown grabs coming in the final six games.
And his season was marked by clutch catches and first downs. And also by a key touchdown grab at Kansas State, when Blackmon sat out the game under one-game suspension.
“He does get overlooked,” Monken said, “but in his own right he's a really, really good football player.”
Not that Cooper is at all caught up in chasing the spotlight.
“I'm not worried about any of that,” said the senior from Mustang. “I just do what I do. And I plan to keep on doing it just the same way.
“We're just focused on the goal we've got. And that's to win a championship.”