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"Obviously you have dreams, as far as football goes. One day, everybody has to hang up the cleats. In my mind, it was going to be either after this season or after a career in the NFL. Obviously, it's a little bit shorter," Cooper said.
"I'm glad I am a strong guy and have a good foundation. I have a lot of support from Lake City and the Clemson family. Having all of that and my mom, my family, my dad, just coach [Dabo] Swinney and the guys and the team.
"I think I'll be alright."
Cooper played in 37 games during his Clemson career, including six as a starter. He had 33 tackles in 12 games as a freshman (two of which he started). Cooper had a career high 10 tackles in the Chick-fil-A Bowl game against Auburn that season. He had 28 tackles in 13 games—four as a starter—in 2008. As a junior, he played in 12 of the Tigers' 14 games.
After Tuesday's practice, Cooper said he'd been left speechless when hit with the news that his football career would be cut short.
"It's like anything, when you stop playing something that you love doing. It's kind of different," he said. "It's a little pain."
The pain from the injury was severe, too. If measured on a scale of 1-10, Cooper said it was around a seven or an eight, while he was hitting.
"When I'm pounding on it, it's pretty intense," he said.
Swinney said the news of Cooper's retirement came as a disappointment.
"If you play this game, you either get hurt or you're not good enough—one of the two. That's how it is for all of us. Unfortunately, it ends sooner for some than others," Swinney said. "I don't think there's anybody out there, whenever it ended, they were ready for it to end."
But Cooper isn't totally done with the game. He'll stick around the team to serve as a student-coach, like J.K. Jay, Stanley Hunter and Jamal Medlin have done in the past year.
Cooper plans to attend graduate school next year, where he'll study psychology. His chance to learn the ropes as a coach will continue through his graduate studies.
"Scotty's one of those guys that I think we'll have a lot to offer young people, especially as he matures and continues to see the big picture of life," Swinney said. "Scotty's a guy that will have a lot to give back as he continues to advance his career. I hope he'll take advantage of his opportunity over the next couple of years and continue to grow in that area."
In May, Cooper was one of 18 Clemson students that visited Ghana as part of a campus academic program. That's allowed him to keep a good perspective.
"I'm glad I went to Africa and saw what I was fortunate for," he said. "I can't play football, but I'm still going to a top-notch school, surrounded by top-notch people. I'll still get an education."
Chad Diehl will wear Cooper's No. 44 for this season.