DeMatha High School is rich in football tradition and talent, producing players such as Maryland's Kenny Tate and Illinois' Ian Thomas. One of the next major players from DeMatha that Illinois is after is defensive tackle Darian Cooper.
Cooper values the tradition of DeMatha and strives diligently to maintain the level of competition and esteem DeMatha attracts.
"We go in and the players we have now, we just work hard every chance we get. People take the initiative to work out on their own. It's a tradition of excellence and we work hard to maintain that. The older guys step up and lead and are role models and leaders to the younger guys."
Cooper has quite an impressive offer sheet already that continues to grow. And like his offer sheet, Cooper is growing both on and off the field and puts in the hard work required to fuel that growth.
"Right now I'm in the process of trying to become a more complete and total player. Building speed, stamina, and quickness are my goals. I've been told that I'm explosive, and I want to work on that and capitalize on my strengths. I need to focus on my pad level too."
With his senior season approaching, Darian Cooper knows what it's going to take to be one of the best and has already started pushing toward his goal.
"This year I'm projecting to play both ways, so stamina will be a real big thing. I feel as though I'll really have to pick up my stamina and have my opponent get tired before I am so I can keep attacking."
Cooper no doubt has plenty of options when it comes to a college destination, but he values certain aspects of each schools and has several criteria for his eventual place of education.
"I'm looking for a strong family base. For my family to be really comfortable with the coaching staff. I'm looking for a balanced school with good networking that can help me out in life and further myself and my career. A degree with clout and is respectable in the workforce.
"Location isn't a big deal, but at the same time I want to go to a place dedicated to winning and molding its players into better people. I want to go into business law."
Cooper has gotten the chance to see a lot of schools already and plans to take time to visit some more, but he came away very impressed with a lot of the schools he has already visited.
"Every school right now has been really cool. I haven't gotten to visit everybody so I can't really say. So far ECU, PSU, Michigan, Maryland, UCLA, USC, Pitt have been good. This summer I'll be taking a lot of visits to schools that have offered me and get to know the coaches and talk to them."
One of those summer visits Cooper intends to take is to Illinois and Coach Joe Gilbert, who has a strong rapport with Cooper.
"Coach Gilmore is a really nice guy. He came up here and we talked, and he really made me feel wanted. I want to go to a place where I can compete, and that's all I can ask for.
"I don't want entitlement, and I have a lot of respect for schools that don't have entitlement. Coach Gilmore is a real straight-forward guy and a real role model."
Cooper is not the only DeMatha player that Illinois is recruiting. Defensive tackle and defensive back Kendall Patterson and Darien Harris, respectively, are also receiving attention from Illinois, and the opportunity to play together in college is appealing to Cooper.
"Everybody tries to carpool and get around for visits. We've talked about it and a lot of us have the same offers, so we try to make those trips at the same time. The opportunity to play together on the next level would be great and having that connection already there is really nice. Having guys that you know will push you helps build you.
"At the same time, each one of us has different things we're looking for, and it's our own individual decisions."
At the moment, Cooper doesn't have any distinct favorites, but after his summer visits, he feels he will have a pretty good idea of which schools stand out to him.
"The only thing I have for sure is that I want to come into my senior season with a top five. It lets me relax so I'm not getting pulled out of class, so that I can focus and really get to know those 5 schools.
"I'll take as many officials as I need out of those five, but if I feel like one place is the right one for me I may not need all five."
And with his focus narrowed, Cooper can work toward his goal for his senior season, which both he and his entire team share.
"My personal and team goal are both the same. We want to win the DC championship. Good Counsel got us last year, but we want to come back and make a statement."