Sitting in front of his locker minding his own business and not talking to anyone, Amari Cooper was approached by several reporters.
Per the Nick Saban rule book, freshmen are off limits to the media during the season, but conference and NCAA policy mandates that all players be made available after championship games, therefore it was kosher to talk to Cooper, who has become quite the hot shot in just a couple months on the job.
In Saturday’s SEC Championship game against Georgia, Cooper hauled in seven passes for 127 yards and a game-winning touchdown.
Down 28-25 with less than five minutes to play, A.J. McCarron found Cooper for a 45-yard bomb to seal the final score at 32-28. Cooper said he didn’t even see McCarron, but saw the ball in the air and knew he had to run at full speed to get it. He did, in the Alabama end zone no less, and the Crimson Tide side of the Georgia Dome erupted.
“It’s a play that I’ve always dreamed of,” Cooper said.
Before hauling in the touchdown that clinched Alabama’s trip to its third national title game in four years, Cooper made a 44-yard grab over UGA safety Bacarri Rambo to put Alabama inside Bulldogs territory in the second quarter. The play caused some reporters in the press box to consciously or unconsciously comment, “He’s a superstar.”
“I think he has a different gear that a lot of people don’t have,” center Barrett Jones said. “The ball is in the air and all of the sudden, [he and the defender are] side-by-side and he accelerates and he has the ball. He’s one of the fastest people I’ve ever seen.”
With Kenny Bell going down with a broken leg the previous week against Auburn, Cooper knew he was going to have to step up and take some shots down the field. He proved more than capable.
“Big time players make big time plays in big time games and I just wanted to come out and be a big time player,” Cooper said. “I envisioned it before it happened and it came true. It happened.”
The true freshman was shy and of very few words when surrounded by reporters and cameras, but his talent speaks for itself, loudly. He leads the team with 52 receptions for 894 yards (averaging 17.19 yards per catch), and nine touchdowns.
Did he envision this is how the season would unfold for him?
“I expected to come in and make an impact,” he said.
Cooper, who ironically hails from Miami, Fla., chose Alabama over Florida State and Miami. And now, due in part to his explosive play not only against Georgia but all season, Cooper has earned himself and his team a trip to his home city.
So what will it be like to play back home in front of his family and friends?
“A dream,” he said. “A dream come true.”
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