Cooper enjoying successes and failures

There was no doubt that there was a lot of anticipation about freshman Khiry Cooper and what he could do in football this year. But being a 5th round pick of the Angles in the Major League Draft made people excited about his opportunities on the diamond as well. Cooper talked about how that is going, and just how football could figure into his near future or maybe a little farther down the road.

You have to applaud freshman Khiry Cooper for the day he had in only his second start as a Husker baseball player, as he went 3-for-5 against Louisiana-Lafayette, his first home run helping to secure a 5-5 tie. Following that, just a game later, Cooper hit knocked in two RBIs, giving the Huskers a 7-6 lead over North Dakota, a lead they pushed to 10-6 for the final.

Not bad, but starting off that hot, no matter how level headed you might be, can perhaps skew your perspective to the reality. "He had immediate success, but you have to be careful with that," Husker Head Coach Mike Anderson said. "You know, in high school he obviously had a lot of success. Well, the first couple of games he had a lot of success, but it was just a matter of time before he learned that it wasn't always going to be that easy."

His next start, this one against St. Mary's, Cooper went 1-for-5 with one run scored and two strikeouts. Sam Houston State came next, and it saw Cooper go 0-for-4. The game following that, this one against Missouri State, Cooper went 0-for-2.

That doesn't faze Anderson, because he knows this is inevitable, and it's something every player has to learn. "You have to let the failures be very valuable learning experiences, and sometimes that means being critical," Anderson said. "But it's a matter of trying to manage that consistency, which you need. I'd rather have a guy go 2-for-4 every day and help the team in every game then going 4-for-four in one game and get nothing in another. "

For Cooper he figured that time was coming, and he said that the early success didn't make him flinch. "Baseball is a sport of failure, and you just have to focus on working hard and helping your team," Cooper said. "There are going to be plenty of days that you don't go out and do what you expect. That's when your teammates pick you up. "

There really wasn't much speculation as to whether or not Cooper would indeed be playing baseball this year. When you are taken in the single-digit rounds of the MLB Draft, you kind of expect that. But Anderson said that Cooper seeing time as quickly as he did wasn't necessarily the plan. "We wanted to take it slow with him as we did with most of these other freshmen, but injuries kind of forced our hand," Anderson said. "So, he and other guys like Corey Burleson, Cody Asche and Kale Kiser all had to get out there and contribute.

"I have been very happy with what they have done, too, because it's not the easiest situation to be thrown in, but they have all responded really well."

The season is not even quite at the quarter mark, but the questions have lingered even before the baseball season began as to just when or if Cooper would make an appearance somewhere between hash marks rather than base pads.

Those questions have been on-going for Cooper as well, even when it comes to Spring football, a time where it would seem a certainty that he might not even step inside the football locker room. "I talked to Coach Pelini about that and Coach Gilmore, and there really isn't anything definite right now as to whether I won't be part of that or not," Cooper said of his occasional talks with Head Coach Bo Pelini and his weekly conversations with Wide Receivers Coach Ted Gilmore.

Cooper said, though, that one message the coaches continue to give him is to stay focused on where he's at and not to worry about where he could eventually be. "Coach Gilmore said that if I can make position meetings, make them. And he said that if I can get with the guys in seven-on-seven, I should do that, too, but I should never let it affect my baseball," Cooper said. "They have been really supportive the entire time, and they just want me to have fun and do the best that I can."

The speculation continues right now, especially with Cooper doing well early on, albeit with the harsh experience of the pitfalls of up-and-down performances. Well enough fan scuttlebutt has been about whether or not he'll return to the gridiron at all. Sure, Nebraska has him for three years since he turned down the Angles and enrolled at Nebraska. But will he ever put on a different helmet other than the one he's wearing now?

You don't have to ask Cooper that twice.

"Depending on how long we go this season, I'm going to get with the rest of the receivers and get going on getting ready for the season," Cooper said.

But to play? This year? That wouldn't seem very likely, but again, Cooper had something else to say about that.

"Oh, I plan to play. That's what I will be working towards doing. There's no doubt I am going to try."


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