Jake Cooper was mesmerized as blue and white streaked by him out of the Penn State tunnel onto the Beaver Stadium turf for warm-ups this past Saturday. The sights and sounds he took in as a recruit on the sideline prior to the Nittany Lions' contest with Eastern Michigan were just how he expected them to be.
Safe to say, he was happy with how his unofficial visit to University Park was beginning, and it would only improve from there.
Two weeks earlier, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Class of 2015 linebacker from Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.) was just happy to be back at his old position. A new one had to be found in the middle his sophomore season after a shoulder injury forced him to bump up to the defensive line. His shoulder just couldn't bear the constant brunt of taking on ball-carriers.
It can now, though, and just like the recruiting process, he's taking it in stride.
"They asked me to come out to the game, and my dad said it would be awesome to make the season-opener because there would be a lively crowd and awesome game," Cooper said. "Being on the field, it was awesome. I knew they were going to be lively.
"A couple of friends told me it was a quiet game [for the student section], and that they weren't as rowdy as they normally are. That's crazy, because they were insane."
Cooper has had no problems returning to his linebacking duties, evidenced by his 14 stops and a sack in the Vikings' season-opening clash with Bensalem (Pa.). Saturday, though, was all about the Lions.
The junior spent time with linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden before the game, chatting about Penn State's Week 1 victory over Syracuse as well as his own two games to date. During their talk, Vanderlinden asked if Cooper was still considering Penn State, an answer that prompted a resounding "yes."
The Lions have yet to extend a verbal offer to the linebacker, but that hasn't diminished his view of the program. Defensive coordinator John Butler has kept Cooper apprised of the Lions' plans, which include reviewing his film and possibly an in-game evaluation before considering extending an offer. The linebacker acknowledged that he understands why so many checks are needed. Penn State must be sure of any offer it sends out since the Lions only have 15 scholarships in each cycle due to NCAA sanctions.
"Penn State is a great school. I fell in love with it the first time I went there, and to have Penn State recruiting me is a huge thing, especially because of their situation with the sanctions," Cooper said. "To be considered as one of their top linebackers is very cool thing.
"I don't mind the process. Sometimes you get a little impatient, but I totally understand what they are doing. They have to make sure they have the right guy."
Archbishop Wood head coach Steve Devlin will be sending film from the team's first two games to Penn State this week, something that Cooper hopes pays dividends.
Seeing Penn State warm up and go through its pregame routine stood out to him, as did the Blue Band drum major hitting his flip. So did the way the student section was involved in the game play-by-play.
A brief chat with Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien capped off his day in Happy Valley, and now the waiting, wondering, and continued communication with PSU's staff will continue. So too, does his high school season, as Wood travels to winless Frankford High (Philadelphia, Pa.) this week.
"I'm going to sit back and chill, and let the offers come to me. I'm not worried about picking them up. I'm going to play my junior season, and if they come, they come," Cooper said.
In the meantime, he's working to improve.
"I stepped up with my speed and agility, and have definitely gotten faster in pass coverage because it's something I worked on every day over the summer," he said. "I realized I needed to step up this year, so I came out relaxed, playing calm, and having fun with it every step of the way."