Cooter was such an outstanding student in junior high school that he was offered an opportunity to enroll at Chattanooga McCallie, whose graduates normally attend prestigious Duke University. He declined, choosing to enroll at Lincoln County High in his hometown of Fayetteville.
Cooter made straight A's at Lincoln County High, earning the High School Heisman as a senior. Then he turned down some low-level scholarship offers to walk on at Tennessee. He even had the nerve to try out as a quarterback, even though he scarcely played the position in high school.
Not surprisingly, Cooter's career as a UT quarterback consisted of six mop-up performances, including three late-game appearances last fall. His career highlight probably occurred Nov. 15, 2003, when he drew a rousing ovation for making four late-game handoffs in a 59-21 blowout of Mississippi State.
Although he lacked the physical capabilities to contribute significantly as a college quarterback, Cooter impressed his position coach with his analytical mind. Former UT quarterback coach Randy Sanders once characterized him as "really, really intelligent ... one of the smartest people I've ever been around."
As a junior in 2005, Cooter was entrusted with the critical role of roaming the Vol sidelines, receiving Tennessee's play calls from the press box and relaying them to the huddle – all the while confusing opponents with an assortment of decoy signals.
"I not only had to know all the plays but was responsible for coming through with the correct signals during clutch situations of the game," he said in a release prepared by the UT sports information department. "It was a lot of responsibility."
Now the former Vol has even more responsibility. In his new role as graduate assistant, he is taking the first tentative steps in what just might become a brilliant career.
"I am excited to get started into the coaching world," Cooter said in the release. "I'd say I have had a taste of it the last couple of years. I have been doing a lot of coaching-type things in addition to playing, but it will be interesting to take the pads off and pick up a whistle."
Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer, a card-carrying member of the Jim Bob Cooter fan club, is glad to have his former player helping with the coaching chores.
"We are very excited about Jim Bob's opportunity," Fulmer said.