INDIANAPOLIS — In 2013, Ethan Cooper graduated from Central Dauphin East High School near Harrisburg.
An offensive lineman and defensive lineman in high school, Cooper did not receive significant recruiting attention. His 247 Sports page doesn’t show a single Division I offer. Scout and Rivals never even created one for him. His Huddle page with his senior highlights has been viewed just 444 times.
Four years later, Cooper is heading towards the NFL.
The 6-foot-3, 322-pound lineman spent the intermediary years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and after findng success as a left tackle with the Crimson Hawks, has earned significant professional interest as a guard at the next level.
Cooper played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January and was one of seven Division II players invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week. Cooper put up 26 reps on the bench press, ran a 5.36 40-yard dash, had a 99-inch broad jump and a 24.5 inch vertical. He didn’t lead the way in any categories, but competing right alongside the best Division I players in the country, Cooper showed that he definitely belongs.
It’s a big change from four years ago, when he wasn’t even afforded the opportunity to play at a Division I level. While Cooper has certainly matured physically and as a football player, he thinks it was a change in mentality that led him to success at the highest level. In order to make it to the NFL, he first had to believe that it was possible. That’s his biggest takeaway from his time at IUP.
“My mentality changed a lot from coming in as a freshman to leaving as a senior,” he said. “I feel like freshman year I felt like I might be able to [play the game at the next level], but once I started to realize my true potential and realized that as long as I really honed in and locked in on what I was doing, there was a chance I could, it’s turned all the way up from there. I just made sure that I kept my nose clean, stayed out of trouble and just focused strictly on football and academics.”
Cooper also gave credit to the football environment in the ultra-competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, where IUP and other local small state schools play. Several former PSAC players are currently on NFL rosters including Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz (West Chester) and offensive lineman Matt Feiler (Bloomsburg).
“It’s very competitive in the PSAC,” Cooper said. “We call the PSAC the SEC of D-2. That’s why I went to a PSAC West school, because of that. It’s just the level of competition and going against really good players. There’s a lot of really good players in D-2 that might not get the recognition they deserve. That made it easier for me.”
Cooper has a message for other players that might be under-recruited coming out of high school or playing at a smaller college:
“Don’t listen to anybody that tells you that you can’t do something. As long as you work hard and push for what you want, you’ll achieve it. That, and always keep faith in God.”