If you google Jonathon Cooper’s name, a list of NFL team blogs will fill your screen. You’ll see writers covering the 49ers, Raiders, Giants, Bears and Texans raving about the soon-to-be rookie, and what the Ohio State product could bring to their teams’ defenses. Sprinkled in with those results, is headline after headline saying something along the lines of “Jonathon Cooper shines, turns heads, sends draft stock soaring, etc etc etc at Senior Bowl.” But don’t be fooled, it was a long and twisty path to get to where he is today. And this success couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.
After playing backup behind multiple future NFL Draft picks in 2016 and 2017, Cooper’s career at Ohio State really started to heat up in 2018 after Nick Bosa suffered a season-ending injury. He finished that season with 25 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. However, a high-ankle sprain endured in the preseason kept Cooper to just four games and ultimately a redshirt year in 2019, resulting in his decision to return to Ohio State for a fifth year in 2020. In doing so, Cooper proved to the world not only what he can do on the field without an ankle injury to stop him, but also the kind of teammate and selfless leader he can be behind the scenes.
Watch this from Ohio State fifth-year senior captain Jonathon Cooper. pic.twitter.com/m3UQ3t7GSS— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 10, 2020
Despite the 2020 season being cut in half due to COVID-19 restrictions, Cooper made the most of every second on the field. He ended his last season as a Buckeye with 20 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and one pass breakup, all while being the first player to sport the new Block “O” jersey.
Highest-graded defenders vs ranked teams last season:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 5, 2021
1. Jonathon Cooper, OSU - 90.1
2. Alim McNeill, NC St - 89.5
3. Azeez Ojulari, UGA - 87.2 pic.twitter.com/JoJdgGN02V
While his numbers last season alone could have been enough to drum up some interest among NFL scouts, his Senior Bowl performance is what really put him over the edge. Scouting experts and draft analysts alike expect Cooper to go much higher than expected in the 2021 NFL Draft after what Cecil Lammey of FootballGuys.com called the best pass-rushing performance in the National Team practice to date. Cooper had three tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks.
Highest-graded defensive players at the Senior Bowl— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 31, 2021
1. Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA ED: 94.7
2. Jonathon Cooper, OSU ED: 92.8
3. Shaka Toney, Penn St ED: 89.6
4. Chauncey Golston, Iowa DT: 85.6
5. K.J. Britt, Auburn LB: 84.4 pic.twitter.com/6XF9eUA9f9
Cooper’s decision to return for a fifth year has paid off (literally) and then some. As a result, NFL teams are flocking, the standard for the Block “O” jersey is the highest it could possibly be, and, well, Buckeye fans got one more season (albeit too short of a season) with one of their favorite players of all time.
Before he heads off into the big leagues, I caught up with Cooper to ask him all the good stuff— what he plans to do with the Block “O” jersey, what his offseason looks like, which NFL teams are most interested, what his last meal would be, and more.
LGHL: To no one’s surprise, you had a seriously impressive senior bowl. Now that that’s over, how has your offseason been? What are your plans as we approach the NFL Draft?
Cooper: My offseason has been great. Im training down in Fort Lauderdale Florida with XPE and I feel like I’m improving a lot. My plans are to continue to get better and talk to as many teams as I can.
LGHL: What is your most memorable moment from your time at Ohio State?
Cooper: Getting the Block “O” jersey in front of my teammates and receiving the love from the team. It was truly an honor and humbling and something that I will never forget.
LGHL: What song instantly puts you in a good mood?
Cooper: “Power” by Kanye West
LGHL: Being from Columbus, Ohio, did you grow up a Buckeye fan? Did you even consider going to any other schools or was it always going to be Ohio State?
Cooper: I grew up a Buckeye fan, of course, and it was amazing to be able to play for Ohio State. I did consider other colleges because I wanted the best college for me. It just happened to be that Ohio State was that fit for me.
LGHL: If you could sit down and have dinner with anyone — dead or alive — who would it be?
Cooper: Will Smith. He has accomplished so much and has such an amazing mindset when it comes to everything and how to be successful in life, and I would get as much knowledge as I could.
LGHL: Is there anyone in the league or a former NFL player who you look up to?
Cooper: A lot of defensive players but the main one would be Ray Lewis.
LGHL: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Cooper: That I am a DJ and I make mixes in songs.
LGHL: You are the first player in OSU history to wear the new Block “O” jersey. Assuming you got to keep the jersey, what are you going to do with it?
Cooper: I did get to keep the jersey and I’m going to keep it framed forever.
LGHL: If you were given a last meal, what would it be?
Cooper: Steak, lobster, a chipotle burrito on the side and a milkshake.
LGHL: Which NFL teams’ defensive schemes fit you the best? Which teams have shown the most interest?
Cooper: I feel like I can fit and mold into any defensive scheme and, honestly, I’ve had great meetings with all of the teams in the NFL.
LGHL: Celebrity crush?
Cooper: Beyonce. Always.
LGHL: What are you going to miss most about your time at Ohio State?
Cooper: My brothers and the locker room.
LGHL: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Was the NFL always on your radar?
Cooper: The NFL was always on my radar but I wanted to be an architect.
LGHL: What did you major in?
Cooper: Consumer and Family Financial Services
LGHL: What’s your pet peeve?
Cooper: Someone not giving me directions when driving
LGHL: Who on the team did you get along with best or hangout with the most?
Cooper: Jordan Fuller and Austin Mack
LGHL: Is there anyone you expect to have a breakout season next year?
Cooper: Tyreke Smith, Zach Harrison, Tyler Friday, Javontae Jean-Baptiste
LGHL: Funniest memory — whether it be in the locker room, during a workout or at practice — during your time at Ohio State?
Cooper: Getting into a fight with the whole offense in spring practice
LGHL: Any advice to the players stepping into your role next season?
Cooper: Go as hard as you can and be yourself because you are good enough.
You’re going to be missed by Buckeye Nation. Anything you’d like to tell your fans?
Cooper: Thank you for everything you guys have done for me this year. It has meant the world to me, and I’m going to miss and cherish the memories I had.