Wide receiver looks to make bigger contributions
The local Fox television station, like every Sunday, aired the Carolina Panthers football game.
More eyes in Craven County were glued to the set than usual.
The Los Angeles Rams were the opposition, with former Havelock High standout Pharoh Cooper making his NFL regular-season debut.
“That was pretty cool, my first game back and I’m playing against the Carolina Panthers,” Cooper said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.
Cooper caught his first pass this past Sunday – a three-yard reception. He hauled in another pass, but it was called off because of an offensive penalty.
“I was excited. It wasn’t a big gain, but after you make that first catch, you feel like you are ready to go and catch a lot more footballs,” Cooper said. “It felt great to get back on the field and catch the football.”
Cooper was inactive for the LA Rams’ first seven games as he was attempting to return from a shoulder injury he sustained in the preseason.
The Havelock native got his feet wet this past weekend, and now he’s ready for more.
“It feels great to finally be back healthy and getting back to being myself,” said Cooper, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 207 pounds. “It was great going out there and running around with those guys. I practiced all week and it translated to the game.
“It felt good to put on the shoulder pads and jersey and go out there and play.”
Cooper, who played three years in college at South Carolina, was a fourth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Rams.
The rookie wide receiver is finding his role as he continues his transition to the professional ranks.
“I’m just getting back to being healthy so I’m still trying to figure out my role and ways to get involved in the passing game,” Cooper said. “I don’t really have an exact role right now but I’m out there working my way into the offense.”
Cooper is listed on the Rams’ depth chart as a third-stringer behind Kenny Britt and Bradley Marquez.
Despite the Rams being a young team, in their franchise’s first year back in Los Angeles, Cooper said he’s learning and making adjustments with the help of some veterans, like Tavon Austin and Todd Gurley.
“I’m watching film, learning what defensive backs are going to do and watching individual players and learning how they are playing,” Cooper said. “The overall speed of the game is faster and they are a lot smarter.
“I’ve learned that if I go out there and work hard, everything else will fall into place. I’m taking it day-by-day and am not taking anything for granted.”
The Rams (3-5) have lost four in a row – the last three by seven points or less.
Cooper traveled with the Rams to London for their game against the New York Giants Oct. 23, and the previous week, he met up with former Havelock and South Carolina teammate Corey Robinson, who plays on the offensive line for the Detroit Lions.
“It was cool seeing Big Corey. We talked about the game and what had happened, and nothing too serious,” Cooper said. “He’s doing good and holding up, so it was great to see him and talk to him after the game.”
Cooper helped Havelock High win state championships in 2011 and 2012.