Indiana’s David Cooper, a Brookwood grad, lines up against. Indiana State during a game on Aug. 29. (Photo: Indiana Athletics)
David Cooper didn’t imagine himself in the middle of nowhere Kansas.
Talent-wise, he was a major college prospect at linebacker when he finished his playing career at Brookwood, but falling short on his test scores altered his plans of signing with his dream school at the time, Mississippi State.
The change of events sent Cooper to Coffeyville Community College and like his freshmen teammates at the well-known junior college program, he took a redshirt year so he would have three years of eligibility at a four-year school in the future.
It was an interesting transition from metro Atlanta to a small town in southeast Kansas, but he flourished off the field and on it. He had 102 tackles in 2011, his only season of JUCO play.
“There was nothing out there really, to be honest,” said Cooper, now a junior linebacker for Indiana. “There was really no life out there, which was a good thing for me. I separated myself from a lot of people on my books and on football and I left (Coffeyville) with a 3.1 (GPA). All I remember was a McDonald’s and a Walmart. Everybody treated the Walmart like it was the mall.”
Those days are distant memories now for Cooper.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder is in his second year as a starting linebacker for Indiana, coming off a sophomore season when he had 86 tackles (tied for second on the team) with 50 solos and three sacks.
He also enjoys his new home much better than Coffeyville.
“The school aspect is great, life up here in Bloomington is great,” said Cooper, who chose Indiana over Kentucky and more than 15 other top offers after junior college. “The people are nice. It’s just a nice area, a nice town.”
Cooper made 12 starts at middle linebacker last year for a 4-8 Hoosiers team, but hopes are higher this season, he said. Indiana is 2-1, a loss to Navy sandwiched between wins over Indiana State and Bowling Green.
A big test looms at home tonight against a Southeastern Conference opponent, Missouri.
“I know for a fact we’re going to improve from last season, offensively and defensively,” Cooper said. “We have a high-powered offense, one of the top offenses in the country, and the defense is improved. We played well in the last game against Bowling Green. They have a good offense and we shut them down. They didn’t score a touchdown on offense against us.”
Cooper leads the Hoosiers through three games with 27 tackles, with a season-high 10 coming last week vs. Bowling Green. He also had nine tackles vs. Navy and eight against Indiana State.
He had a good debut season in 2012, but he plans on a bigger year individually, too.
“Last year was good, but this season I know I had a lot to improve on and do better,” Cooper said. “I had to correct some things from last year. But it was cool to start last year and get a taste of the Big Ten. I want to do even better this year.”
Sims gets first TD
Brookwood grad Andre Sims, a sophomore at Michigan State, caught his first college touchdown pass last Saturday in the Spartans’ victory over Youngstown State.
Sims caught a 13-yard TD from Connor Cook in the first quarter to give MSU a 14-3 lead.
Teammate Nick Tompkins, also a Brookwood grad, had six carries for 16 yards.
Bullock shines in Berry’s historic win
Berry College won its first-ever football game last weekend, defeating the LaGrange College junior varsity 37-27 with the help of Dacula grad Josh Bullock.
Bullock scored on a reverse in the first quarter for a 13-0 Berry lead and later scored on a 40-yard reception that pushed the hosts’ lead to 34-7 at halftime.
The new Berry program, which played last weekend’s home game at Darlington, also features kicker/punter Mitchell Blanchard (Collins Hill) and running backs Jonathan Lewis (North Gwinnett) and Jordan Brannen (Lanier) on the roster. Blanchard punted four times for 36.2-yard average in the historic victory, while Lewis had five rushes for five yards and returned a kickoff 18 yards.
The Vikings are now 1-1 after losing their inaugural game to Maryville College (Tenn.).
DoVale earns league award
Collins Hill’s Sage DoVale, a senior goalkeeper at Fairleigh Dickinson, was named the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. It was her second time winning the award this season.
DoVale had eight saves in two matches in the previous week, including her third shutout of the season in a 1-0 win over Lafayette. She also made five saves, including one on a penalty kick, in a 1-0 loss to Monmouth.
Penston honored by league
North Georgia forward Kelly Penston, a North Gwinnett grad, was named the Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week on Monday.
The senior scored the game-tying goal in the 75th minute of North Georgia’s 2-1 win over Lincoln Memorial last week. She also scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute of a 1-0 road victory over Lees-McRae.
Pierre-Louis gets conference honor
Mill Creek grad Waldyr Pierre-Louis, who also played for the Dacula Soccer Club Revolution, was named the USA South Athletic Conference Player and Rookie of the Week on Monday.
The Piedmont College freshman scored the first goal of the Lions’ season last week vs. Bob Jones, then assisted on the game-winning goal against Emory and Henry.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to email@example.com.