In the Trenches With Darian Cooper

TSR's Ben Worsley goes in the trenches with 2011 Dematha product Darian Cooper.

Don't bother telling Darian Cooper that football games are won or lost in the trenches; he knows this better than anyone else.

The junior from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md. excels on both sides of the line, playing defensive end, defensive tackle and offensive guard for the Stags. He is one of the anchors of a big, strong offensive line that creates plenty of holes for an offense that relies heavily on its running game. His forte is defense, though, where his team typically plays the 4-3 style.

Cooper, a humble 16-year old, stands 6-foot-3 and weighs a menacing 280 pounds. He's been naturally gifted with size and strength, but his surprising ability to balance them with quickness makes him a particularly fascinating recruit.

“I'd actually say one of my main strengths is speed,” Cooper said. “I like to play fast.”

Football has always been one of his passions. A native of Jacksonville, Fla., Cooper grew up watching the Oakland Raiders with his uncle, and he played backyard football for years with neighborhood friends.

“Always playing with older kids, it elevates you to play a certain way,” Cooper said. “I always tried to play big because the kids I played with were bigger than me.”

But his size actually led to some difficulty finding organized leagues. He joined a pee-wee league in sixth grade because it had no weight limit, and he excelled immediately. The league was divided into junior varsity and varsity teams, and after just two days of practice-one with pads and one without-Cooper was placed on the varsity team. He moved to another recreational league the next year, where he led his team in tackles. It was during this stint that he would meet a lot of his teammates at DeMatha.

“Once I found the opportunity to get into a league, I knew it was what I wanted to do,” he said.

After just one year in the program, Cooper was playing varsity football at DeMatha, a school nationally recognized for its athletic excellence. He admitted one of his weaknesses is staying low while on the defensive line, so his coaches have been working with him to fine-tune his skills.

Now in his third year, Cooper has already worked out with the Universities of Maryland and Miami and keeps in touch with both. He said he would prefer playing for Miami, but he is leaving his options open.

“I like the coaching staff at Maryland,” he said. “They've sent me a lot of stuff. They're active in getting me to come to a lot of recruiting events.”

Cooper values his education equally, though, and understands the importance of balancing academics with athletics.

“I'm looking for a solid mix of both,” Cooper said. “I plan on taking advantage of the scholarship, getting my degree, staying in school the whole time.

“Playing football at the next level is my dream. It's what I want to do. Trying to make an impact is definitely important.”

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