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Tuesday, April 30, 2013
2015 LB Jake Cooper has early favorite

By Josh Moyer

Jake Cooper (Warminster, Pa./Archbishop Wood) can still remember those cool Saturday afternoons, sitting on his father's lap and stuffing small fistfuls of chips into his mouth.

The Class of 2015 linebacker, only 6 years old back when he and his father shared a recliner, would stare at the giant football players on TV and listen to his father. "You need to watch this guy," the elder Cooper would tell him, pointing to a Penn State linebacker.

Every Saturday, they'd watch the Nittany Lions. And, with each passing weekend, Cooper became more and more of a PSU fan. There was his neighbor, a PSU kicker in the 1970s whose grilled hot dogs and burgers became a neighborhood staple. Then there was the local standout, Dan Connor, who played for PSU. And, of course, he couldn't forget the time one of his father's friends took him inside the stadium on media day to meet players.

The small kid who sipped sodas while his father opted for other beverages on those Saturdays is a different person now. He's grown to 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds -- but that doesn't mean everything's changed. When asked if PSU remains his top school, he just laughed.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "When I was 6, I was just like, 'Wow.' Penn State was some kind of kingdom to me as a little guy. And then when I visited there for the spring game, it just felt like home. As a 17-year-old kid, I get to relive everything. It feels like home there already."

Cooper, who's currently finishing up his sophomore year, has already landed on the recruiting radar of more than a half-dozen BCS conference schools. He's garnered interest from as far west as Stanford and as far south as Florida and Florida State. Nebraska, Wisconsin and Rutgers also have begun recruiting him.

But, for the kid who's played linebacker since age 6, Cooper isn't shy about naming his favorite. He doesn't mind sitting down and recounting his favorite PSU experiences -- about meeting Tony Hunt for the first time and idolizing Connor. About chatting with the neighbor on the fine art of tailgating. And about his recent visit during the Blue-White Game.

Despite setting aside his Saturdays to watch Linebacker U, he's never before been to a Penn State game. So that made his most recent visit all the more special -- one he couldn't say enough about.

"The first thing I did there was sit down and look back up to [my dad] and smile because it was the first time I was in a game-like atmosphere," he said. "And I was there experiencing it with my dad, who I watched every single Penn State game with. It was just awesome."

Cooper's interest in the Blue and White is mutual. The staff told the linebacker they planned to stop by his school twice next month, and Cooper is hoping for a scholarship offer.

But, since PSU's clearly his top school, would he commit right on the spot. This early?

"It'd be a tough decision," he said. "But I'd definitely go home and see first. I would want to sit down with [my dad]. But, being it's the beginning of my junior year, I think we'd want to ride it out -- maybe commit in the middle or end of my junior season."

Whenever Cooper has a weekend off from high school football, he still retreats to his father's man cave to watch Penn State football. He's outgrown his father's lap and sits on a couch instead, but he still looks at those linebackers.

His only hope is that, in a few years, his dad will be motioning to that TV screen again -- but pointing out his son instead.