The real world and the sports world have changed in recent times. For better or for worse is totally debatable. One young man, however, has used an old school approach to realize an early-life goal.
In the “old” days, a good high school athlete played more than one sport. With eyes on representing the school colors, the idea was to be all you could be. Merely a stepping stone to regular life, these times were about developing pride, work ethic, honor, respect, and all those important things that can make you a success.
Today’s high school world has become more about concentrating on one sport because that is what will get you to the next level, or so some say. The goal of any athlete is always to move up and continue to play the game. Life should not be just about a game, but rather any game can be about life. The search for the spotlight and the glitz and glamour of professional sports can often times impair the vision of youthful competitors.
Mark Cooper is a young man that walked onto the Blackman high school campus with some traditional values. Having played multiple sports as a little kid, he had eyes on much the same while wearing the Blaze Orange and Blue. Now after four years of being a two-sport star, Cooper has cultivated his efforts into a football scholarship at Emory and Henry College.
“As a kid I always loved both basketball and football and wanted to play both for Blackman”, says Cooper. “I knew it would be tough and take up virtually all my time, but I was good with that. Representing my school in both has been very rewarding for me and I think playing both sports really helped me develop a strong mentality.”
Cooper was a standout for Blackman on the gridiron in all three phases of the game. On offense, his sure hands as a wide receiver were integral to the Blaze attack (30 receptions 541 yards 5 TDs). As a defensive back, his shut-down skills helped stymie the opposing offense (30 tackles, 1 interception 1 forced fumble). On special teams, his time as a punt returner provided another weapon. These overall game skills are what attracted football offers and eventually allowed Cooper to choose the Wasps as his next mascot.
“Emory and Henry always showed a lot of interest and they have coaches on both sides of the ball wanting me”, says Cooper. “I think I can go there and have a chance to play right away and maybe even see some time on offense and defense. I like being versatile and that is one of the things they really seem to like about me.”
A shining example of class on the football field, Cooper’s stats do not tell his entire story. His ability to handle adversity and represent himself in all the right ways are also key elements that make him a desirable college athlete. Interestingly enough, it may have been the influences of his time representing the Blackman basketball program that played a major role in him heading to college as a football player.
“Coach (Barry) Wortman has always impressed upon me to do the right things in both the playing arena and the class room”, says Cooper. “He always tells us to put in the work and your game will do all the talking for you. I have tried to follow that philosophy throughout my time here at Blackman.”
With still some basketball to play, Cooper looks forward to finishing his time at Blackman with a flourish. Making memories while laying the foundation for the future, this young man’s old school thinking has allowed him to realize one of his life goals.
“To be able to say I am playing college football is a big deal for me”, says Cooper. “All the hard work and time invested has paid off. I have a lot of people to thank for this opportunity. Remaining focused and continuing to do the things that got me to this point are very important.”