Senior wide receiver Tyler Cooperwood has not had an easy go of it trying to find his place in college football. He bounced from Graceland University to New Mexico Highlands, to East L.A. College before finally landing with the Utes as a walk-on in 2014. Even after finally finding a home, his progress was slowed up by injury. But one thing is for certain. Cooperwood knows how to work hard and stay prepared - which ultimately earned him the biggest honor you can receive as a walk-on: a scholarship.
“It was a blessing to receive my scholarship. I’ve been working really, really hard towards it and it was a goal of mine I was able to complete so I was thankful for that,” Cooperwood said. “As far as everything else it’s day in and day out. I know I have to stay ready at all times because anybody can go down anytime and so that’s just how the game works. You have to make sure when your opportunity comes that you are ready. I’ve accepted my role on the team and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to be out here everyday.”
What initially drew Cooperwood to Utah was feeling appreciated by the coaching staff and having a few friends he was training with already on their way to play for the Utes. “I did have a look at San Jose State and they were interested in me. I did have an opportunity to play there but it just didn’t work out for me,” he explained of his journey. “There were a couple of guys who I train with that were already coming up here who Utah had recruited and so when I got here the coaching staff really made me feel like family. I appreciate them for giving me a chance- really actually for taking the chance on me. It was great to know I had a family around me and that I could get better with the opportunities that I’m given. That’s the main thing. It’s not really about the offers or being a four star, five star out of high school as long as you work and compete.”
Being able to play, just being able to practice, is something Cooperwood has gained an immense appreciation for from his own experiences. Cooperwood says the key to getting through setbacks is the mindset you choose. “When I first got here I had got injured and it was pretty frustrating for me. I think the main thing is the mindset you have going through the rehab, and the training you have to go through in order to get to the level of play you need to be at,” he said. “For me I’m glad I haven’t had any injuries this season so I usually just concentrate on making sure my body is healthy. Watching what I eat and getting the proper amount of rest and making sure I’m really stretched out because as I said at any moment anyone can go down.”
It also doesn’t hurt being surrounded by supportive teammates who have each other’s backs no matter what. “It’s huge. Sometimes players get down because of how the coaches come at them or they have a bad day at practice and it seems like they can’t do anything right on the field but it’s great to know you have good teammates and players around you that can encourage you and lift you up,” he said. “Tell you to keep going hard and really give you your reason or another reason as to why you should come out here every day and go 100%. At the end of the day the coaches don’t play the game for us, it’s the players so I’m glad Utah has a great family based football team where a lot of the guys will accept you no matter what your background is, or where you came from or where you grew up. It’s really a team thing and so I’m really glad to be a part of a team like that.”
Cooperwood says a lot of credit needs to go to wide receivers coach Guy Holliday for unifying the wide receiver group and helping them improve their game from the seniors down to the freshmen. “Coach Holliday is a great wide receiver coach and the thing about him is that he believes in all of his guys and that’s from the seniors to the freshmen,” he said. “I think a lot of our younger guys have really taken on that role to not settle as freshmen or sophomores but to extend their play like the juniors and seniors. Being an upper classmen we don’t dog our freshmen out, make them seem less or like they aren’t getting enough playing time so we won’t accept them. We are really big on unity. Everybody is out here working hard for the same goal everyday. As long as that is happening I think that is going to create great team chemistry not only with our position group but overall as a team as well."
That team unity very much carries itself into the locker room where Cooperwood says his favorite memory probably took place but he won’t divulge too many details. “Y’all don’t really know what goes on in the locker room but it’s a lot of funny stuff that goes on,” he said with a big grin. “I can’t name one right now but just being with my teammates day in and day out you never know what to expect honestly. Everybody is full of jokes and laughter it’s a good time and I have fun enjoying my days out here with these guys."
No matter how much fun and goofing off Cooperwood enjoys with his teammates he still makes sure he stays prepared and continues to work hard towards his individual goals. “Stay ready and something else I have to take in right now too is to keep working hard,” he said. “No matter what the circumstances might be I’m just trying to be living proof that you can come from the bottom and make it. Just stay ready and when your time comes to be called just do what you do best and that’s perform.”
Cooperwood’s ability to stay focused has earned him some playtime against San Jose, Washington and Cal where he caught a big third down conversion. “It was a blessing. I was glad I was able to have the ball thrown to me,” Cooperwood said of the play. “I actually went into the huddle and told Troy to throw me the ball because I was that confident in myself, but it was just a blessing to be out there honestly. It gave me great game experience in the one play that I did get in and it gave me a ton of confidence that I can show my coaches I can get the job done if needed. I’m just waiting on my next opportunity and I can go ahead and perform and keep it moving.”
When Cooperwood walks out of Rice-Eccles for the last time looking for that next opportunity he says he simply wants his lasting impression to be of a guy who always worked hard and never gave up. “I was a hard worker. That I contributed everything that I got,” he said. “I feel like with those things right there you can accomplish anything. Especially any personal goals that you have. I’m excited to see where this takes me and I know for a fact this is not the end. I just have to keep going, stay strong and have faith in it.”