Maine Coach Richard Nagy on Stephen Cooper

Chargers Update spoke with Coach Richard Nagy the defensive coordinator for Stephen Cooper at Maine University. Cooper is a undrafted free agent linebacker that was signed by the San Diego Chargers on April 29th, a day after the 2003 NFL Draft. Cooper fell mainly due to off the field problems.

What can you tell us about him?

"As far as a person I think he is a great kid. He is over my house, and probably my daughter's favorite person besides me and her mom. He has overcome a lot of adversity in his background. It's good to see where he has evolved to since I have known him."

Former Maine linebacker Stephen Cooper was sentenced in federal court March 12th, 2003 to one year of probation for possession of steroids.

Cooper also was fined $200. As part of his probation, he must perform 100 hours of community service. At least 25 hours must be spent talking to high school students about the dangers of taking steroids.

How has getting caught with anabolic steroids affected him?

"I think it was a situation that forced him to take a hard look at some things, and through it all, it was a tough situation but the way he handled it all, he handled it very well. And to be honest with you, he handled it in a way that he had to handle it in order to make it a situation, not so much a positive, but trying to learn and grow from it. He never once denied it. He never once tried to make an excuse for it. He just listened to some wrong advice from some wrong people. Luckily he sort of wavered on it and never took them, but he had them on him and was guilty enough. I think the good thing is even in his own conscience he knew it wasn't the right thing to do."

Cooper, 23, of Wareham, Mass., pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge last December. He said he'd planned to use the pills after the season ended to bulk up for a career in the NFL, and that he did not use performance-enhancing drugs while at Maine.

A search of the vehicle by a state trooper turned up more than 1,200 pills, Cooper acknowledged that the pills were his, and that they were steroids.

Were you surprised he went undrafted?

"No not after that. I think it is hard when you are coming from a lower level school anyways from what I have seen, when you don't have anything against you."

Was he scouted heavily?

"He was. I think every NFL team was up here at one point watching tape on him and were very impressed with him. I really believe that situation caused him to go undrafted more than anything else."

At 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, Cooper ran the 40 in 4.68 seconds, had a vertical jump of 39 inches and bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times at a Boston College tryout attended by all but two NFL teams.

How did the ankle injury causing him to miss two games affect his game?

"I don't know if he was ever a 100% after the injury but he never let it affect his play."

What kind of defense do you play at Maine?

"We are a 4-4 attack front, very similar to Virginia Tech. He was really the focal point of everything we did defensively. He is physically a very gifted player. A lot of attributes, but the thing I really think he brought to the table, the thing that has gotten him to the point he is now, he is also a huge student of the game and he studies it more than anyone I have ever been around."

Is he effective in pass coverage?

"He is good, he is very athletic. I would say until two years ago you would describe him as a basketball player playing football. Growing up that was his main passion, playing basketball and the last two years of his college career he really became a very athletic football player because of his basketball skills and background."

Cooper became just the third player in Atlantic 10 history to repeat as Defensive Player of the Year. He shared the award with Derrick Lloyd in 2001.

Did you use him as a blitzer?

"We used him in all capacities."

Cooper collected 121 tackles, including 81 unassisted, along with 19 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and three interceptions as a senior. As a junior Cooper had 95 tackles, 18 for a loss, 5 sacks and two interceptions.

Did he play on special teams?

"Oh yeah, he was on our punt team mostly and our punt return team. At times we played around with him on kickoffs but mostly just never did it because of how much he meant to us defensively."

Where does he project to play and where did you use him?

"We played him as an outside linebacker spot; I know that is what he is playing right now."

What does he need to do to become successful at the NFL?

"I just think he needs to continue what he has been doing. Just keep learning and growing on a daily basis. Learn the system and once he learns the system let his abilities take over."

Joel Buschbaum wrote in his scouting report of Cooper for Pro Football Weekly and ESPN.com:

"Positives: Captain, team leader and one of the best defensive players in I-AA over the last two years. Very active, with good instincts. Makes plays. Can look fluid and athletic.

"Negatives: Legal trouble is a red flag, if not concern enough to move him down the board on draft day. Has a tendency to play too upright and lose leverage at the point of attack. Needs to do better job of meeting and shedding blocks. Is not as tough as scouts would like.

"Summary: Cooper has some talent and may draw interest in the sixth and seventh rounds, but only if teams are willing to overlook character concerns."

We again ask you to make your selections known for our "Where are they now?" section as Chargers Update talks to players from the past who made us who we are today. The most popular ones will be the ones we seek to do first. Also if you have a question or two for any player, post that as well and we will do our best to answer them. To ask a question or suggest an interview go to our premium message boards at:

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Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net or via the following link: Denis Savage


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