In the fifth annual Gridiron Football All-American Bowl Game and the first one that was put on out of state in Orange Beach, Alabama, it was an Alabama native that made the first big play in the ball game. With the game being scoreless, it was Hackleburg High School senior wide receiver Daniel Cooper that caught a short pass from East Feliciana quarterback Mills Dawson and outraced everybody to the end zone 72 yards for the first touchdown of the game. The explosive catch and run by Cooper was not only just a big play in an All-Star Game, but it was validation for him that he can compete not only with some of the best talent in the state, but in the entire country.
“It means and shows that I can play against the top talent. I’ve been told a lot by coaches that I’m too small or I don’t play against the best guys and scoring that touchdown proved to them and me that I can play against and beat the top talent.”
“My goal was to leave everything on that field because who knows that could’ve been my last time playing the sport I love and I feel like I am done with scoring that touchdown.”
At 6’0, 170 pounds, Daniel Cooper may not be the biggest receiver, but what he does have is big time playmaking speed. With that being said, he can relate his situation to another undersized playmaking receiver that made his name known nationally in the state of Alabama.
“A player I model myself after is DeVonta Smith. Coming into college, people thought he was too small and not good enough for the standard of Alabama, but when he got his opportunity, he shined and I feel like that’s the same way with me. If just that one college team just gives me one opportunity, I will shine as he did.”
Because of his 4.47/40 speed, the Gridiron Football All-American Bowl Game was certainly not the first time that he showed off his speed. Cooper has outran plenty of defenders during his prep playing days at Hackleburg High School in the small town of Hackleburg, Alabama as he set and reset numerous school records as a three time All-State selection.
“The stat I’m most proud of would be breaking my high school receiving yards record for the second year with 1,145. I’m most proud of receiving All-State as a receiver for the second year.”
“It means I have done my job as an athlete not many people can say they hold a record at their high school but it always sets a standard for the next people after to strive to break that record as I did back-to-back years.”
After breaking the school’s single season receiving record twice, Cooper was the Panthers’ top playmaker and did it at multiple positions playing at a Class 1A level in Alabama. His senior season, he had 75 catches for 1,145 yards and 14 touchdowns while adding 455 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. He was also a great defensive player as well notching 69 tackles on the other side of the football.
“My biggest strength would be my versatility throughout my career. I’ve played a lot of positions but also was successful at each one.”
In fact, his versatility to do multiple things helped him realize that football could be a good sport for him.
“I first fell in love with football when I was 14 when I had just started my junior varsity year and it was me and my brother playing on the same team. It was just an amazing experience to be out there hitting and scoring touchdowns. I realized then and there that I was gonna be good because nobody could touch me.”
Setting records and earning All-State was great and all, but what he enjoyed most was getting the chance to play with his brother.
“My favorite memory has to be playing with my older brother Josh and watching him score touchdowns and us celebrating after.”
Not only his brother, but his entire family has played a key role in helping him get to where he is today.
“First off, I would like to thank God because without him, I would’ve never had that opportunity. I also want to thank my brother, mom, dad, and grandparents. These people were big parts of getting me where I needed to be as a person and athlete.”
Cooper has a chance to make plenty of more memories in the near future as he has opportunities to play in college football receiving offers from Culver Stockton, Quincy, Clarke University, and most recently, John Melvin and Ottawa University. Some of those offers came from playing in the Gridiron Football All-American Bowl Game where he finished with three catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. With this opportunity, he wanted to take advantage of it and he did exactly that.
“The best part about this experience was the ability to communicate with so many smart coaches. Every day was something new for me to learn and grow as a person.”
Scoring touchdowns and making big plays is all that Daniel Cooper knows how to do whether it is against local competition throughout his high school career or against national competition in the Gridiron Football All-American Bowl Game. That is what he wanted to show colleges that are recruiting a player with his capabilities.
“I believe that colleges should give me an opportunity because I don’t quit. No matter how much better the guy in front of me is or how much better I am. I will never stop improving and getting better as a player and person. I also have the mentality that I need to be better than the day before.”
To watch Daniel Cooper’s highlights, click below!
To check out Daniel Cooper in the Gridiron Football All-American Bowl Game, click below!