Florida WR Riley Cooper: ‘A lot of my game is boxing out and being physical’

For the past three years at the University of Florida, Riley Cooper has been a favorite target of Gator Nation’s favorite son, QB Tim Tebow. Cooper, working out in Gainesville, Fla., before the 2010 draft, talked to Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer about his rare size/speed combination, his good rapport with Tebow and why he likes to stay outdoors when not playing football.
 

Riley Cooper says he'd return to his special teams roots to stick in the NFL.
Riley Cooper says he’d return to his special teams roots to stick in the NFL.

Sporting News: You have pretty good speed to go along with your 6-3, 233-pound frame. How would describe the strengths of your game?
Riley Cooper: I think I’m fast, with my big body. A lot of my game is boxing out and being physical, which helps me against bump-and-run coverage. I am good at running to the ball.
 
SN: Does that make you suited for a particular style of offense?
RC: I can fit into any team’s system, really, every style of offense on the outside. I’m seen as an X- and Z-type receiver. I’m also used to getting a lot of work in the red zone, where I can go up and get the ball.
 
SN: Who are some of the receivers you’ve looked up to and tried to emulate?
RC: I’ve always liked other physical receivers, namely Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald. They’re right there at 230, 225 pounds. One guy I liked before injuries slowed him down was Michael Clayton of the Buccaneers. He knew how to play the game physically and had some great hands.
 
SN: How much do you think your dedication to special teams will help in the NFL?
RC: That’s how I got on the field early at Florida, running down on coverage, returning kicks as a freshman and sophomore. With a 53-man roster (in the NFL), I’ll work to make it, even if I’m not playing a lot of wide receiver at first.
 
SN: How does the experience of having being already drafted — in baseball — help you with the NFL’s pre-draft process?
RC: It definitely helps that I’ve had the chance to be drafted twice, once out of high school by the Phillies and more recently, the Rangers. The processes are a lot different. Baseball is quiet, not as much hands on. In football, there are lot of visits and workouts.
 
SN: How did you choose Florida after growing up in Oklahoma City?
RC: Honestly, I didn’t really watch much college football. I wanted to find the right style offense, then with coach (Urban) Meyer showing his interest, and told me that I could play on special teams and be a No. 3 or 4 wide receiver right away. I’m still close enough to home where my family never misses a game.

SN: How was it like being Tebow’s roommate?
RC: He has great trust in me, and we have a bond that you would expect that comes from being around each other almost 24-7 during football season. That trust really showed up on the field and how we worked together on pass routes. If I have a chance to compete with him on the same team in the NFL, it would be neat. Just having him as my quarterback and knowing him so well has been a good experience.

SN: What do you and Tebow offer an NFL team, beyond physical skills?
RC: We both have a great work ethic, and we both want to get on the field, even if we start on special teams or kick returns. We want to contribute in some way to help our team win every game.

SN: What did you learn from all that success at Florida?
RC: We were always prepared with a great game plan, and you wanted to compete hard in (Meyer’s) offense. When he recruits you, you come in with a winning attitude. I really hate losing. That’s why it’s hard in baseball — even when you’re among the best, you still fail seven out of 10 times. I can’t stand that feeling.

SN: What do you like to do off the field?
RC: I like to spend most of my time outdoors, hunting and fishing. I hate being inside and just watching TV. When I get a chance to relax, I love being on the beach.
 
SN: When you’re finished with football, what would like people to say about your career?
RC: I would like to be known as someone who is hard-working, loves the game, always going at 100 miles per hour and never takes a play off.

For the past three years at the University of Florida, Riley Cooper has been a favorite target of Gator Nation’s favorite son, QB Tim Tebow. Cooper, working out in Gainesville, Fla., before the 2010 draft, talked to Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer about his rare size/speed combination, his good rapport with Tebow and why he likes to stay outdoors when not playing football.
 

Riley Cooper says he'd return to his special teams roots to stick in the NFL.
Riley Cooper says he’d return to his special teams roots to stick in the NFL.

Sporting News: You have pretty good speed to go along with your 6-3, 233-pound frame. How would describe the strengths of your game?
Riley Cooper: I think I’m fast, with my big body. A lot of my game is boxing out and being physical, which helps me against bump-and-run coverage. I am good at running to the ball.
 
SN: Does that make you suited for a particular style of offense?
RC: I can fit into any team’s system, really, every style of offense on the outside. I’m seen as an X- and Z-type receiver. I’m also used to getting a lot of work in the red zone, where I can go up and get the ball.
 
SN: Who are some of the receivers you’ve looked up to and tried to emulate?
RC: I’ve always liked other physical receivers, namely Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald. They’re right there at 230, 225 pounds. One guy I liked before injuries slowed him down was Michael Clayton of the Buccaneers. He knew how to play the game physically and had some great hands.
 
SN: How much do you think your dedication to special teams will help in the NFL?
RC: That’s how I got on the field early at Florida, running down on coverage, returning kicks as a freshman and sophomore. With a 53-man roster (in the NFL), I’ll work to make it, even if I’m not playing a lot of wide receiver at first.
 
SN: How does the experience of having being already drafted — in baseball — help you with the NFL’s pre-draft process?
RC: It definitely helps that I’ve had the chance to be drafted twice, once out of high school by the Phillies and more recently, the Rangers. The processes are a lot different. Baseball is quiet, not as much hands on. In football, there are lot of visits and workouts.
 
SN: How did you choose Florida after growing up in Oklahoma City?
RC: Honestly, I didn’t really watch much college football. I wanted to find the right style offense, then with coach (Urban) Meyer showing his interest, and told me that I could play on special teams and be a No. 3 or 4 wide receiver right away. I’m still close enough to home where my family never misses a game.

SN: How was it like being Tebow’s roommate?
RC: He has great trust in me, and we have a bond that you would expect that comes from being around each other almost 24-7 during football season. That trust really showed up on the field and how we worked together on pass routes. If I have a chance to compete with him on the same team in the NFL, it would be neat. Just having him as my quarterback and knowing him so well has been a good experience.

SN: What do you and Tebow offer an NFL team, beyond physical skills?
RC: We both have a great work ethic, and we both want to get on the field, even if we start on special teams or kick returns. We want to contribute in some way to help our team win every game.

SN: What did you learn from all that success at Florida?
RC: We were always prepared with a great game plan, and you wanted to compete hard in (Meyer’s) offense. When he recruits you, you come in with a winning attitude. I really hate losing. That’s why it’s hard in baseball — even when you’re among the best, you still fail seven out of 10 times. I can’t stand that feeling.

SN: What do you like to do off the field?
RC: I like to spend most of my time outdoors, hunting and fishing. I hate being inside and just watching TV. When I get a chance to relax, I love being on the beach.
 
SN: When you’re finished with football, what would like people to say about your career?
RC: I would like to be known as someone who is hard-working, loves the game, always going at 100 miles per hour and never takes a play off.

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