Panic started to set in, says Xavier Cooper

FRIENDS AND FAMILY poured into Xavier Cooper’s home Friday evening in Tacoma, eager to celebrate with the former Washington State defensive lineman when his name was called in the NFL draft. So they waited. And waited. And waited some more.

“It was really crazy,” Xavier Cooper said Friday in his first official press conference as a Cleveland Brown. “My agent told me I was going to go anywhere from mid- to late second (round).

“I was kind of panicking. I called him: ‘My man, what’s goin’ on, man? It’s already third.’

“My family was panicking. When you’re in that situation, anybody who’s been in there, you’ve got everybody looking at you wondering, ‘Hey, what’s goin’ on?’ I was getting ready to shut the party down, to be honest with you.”

Instead, the party was soon to begin in earnest. The Browns drafted Cooper in the third round, 96th overall. Cooper weighs almost 300 pounds, but you could have knocked him over with a feather when the team called to inform him that he had been drafted.

“I was talking to my nephew. He’s incarcerated,” Cooper said casually. “He’s getting ready to get out.

“I was on the phone with him on my house phone. That’s when I got the call … I didn’t hear from them at all (after he worked out for the Browns in Tacoma following the NFL Combine).

“I thought I would be drafted by Detroit. That’s what a lot of people were saying: I was going No. 2 (in the second round) to Detroit. I had my heart set on that.

“At the end of the day, I guess God wanted me to be a Brown.”

Cooper appeared to recover rapidly from the disappointment of falling to the third round.

“It doesn’t matter which round you go in, it’s all about what you do you when you get in (the NFL),” Cooper said.

“I’ve been coached well by Coach Leach and the coaching staff as well – Coach Joe (WSU defensive line coach Joe Salave’a). I feel like I’m going to make an impact my rookie season.”

The Browns seem to share Cooper’s confidence.

“I really felt like he was a difference maker,” Cleveland general manager Ray Farmer said. "The guy played with an unbelievable motor. He ran and hustled to the ball. He showed that first-step quick explosion to defeat a block and get up the field.

“I think the guy has a chance to be a really, really good NFL player.”

Cooper doesn’t disagree with Farmer. Cooper said he’s excited about lining up next to former Washington Huskies nose tackle Danny Shelton in Cleveland. The Browns drafted Shelton 12th overall in the first round Thursday.

“Us together, man, you’re talking about probably could be one of the best defensive lines in the National Football League for years to come,” Cooper said.

That might seem like brash talk coming from a player who made the Pac-12 all-conference team only once – and that was honorable mention as a redshirt freshman three years ago. Cooper said Washington State’s under-the-radar location and status in football in recent years limited his exposure.

“That’s better for me,” he said, “because it just makes me play with that chip (on his shoulder) … Washington State has produced some amazing football players. We’re just not on the mainstream media for people to talk about.”

The parents of one of the greatest Cougars in the NFL, former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant of Tacoma, were on hand for Cooper’s draft party. So were Marcus’ brothers, Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (an ex-Husky who is Cooper’s best friend) and former New York Jets cornerback Isaiah Trufant.

Cooper said former WSU assistant coach Mike Levenseller sent along his congratulations from Pullman. Levenseller was sold on Cooper’s athleticism and character when he recruited him for the Cougars, but most schools were scared off by academic issues eventually traced to a learning disability Cooper overcame.

Now Cooper is close to earning his degree, and close to playing in the NFL. He can’t wait to get started – a Browns mini-camp starts Friday – even though it seemed like his wait would never end on draft day.

“I was picked 96th – who would have thought?” Cooper asked. “My (uniform) number 96 for high school to college, and now that’s the number I was picked in for the draft. It’s crazy.”

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