When the first Tar Heel name is called in the 2013 NFL Draft, it's entirely possible that it might be someone unfamiliar to a large portion of the Carolina fan base. That's because one of the UNC players most eagerly sought-after by professional scouts is Jonathan Cooper, the left guard from Wilmington, who plays a largely anonymous position.
He is not anonymous, however, to the Carolina coaches or to the pro scouts that have raved about him during his senior season this fall. One scout tweeted that Cooper was the best guard prospect he had ever scouted, meaning there's a strong likelihood Cooper will be selected at least on the first day of the draft, and possibly even in the first round. What makes Cooper an even more impressive prospect is his off-field profile, where he has been a model citizen. Our Turner Walston spent some time with Cooper for our December 2012 issue. As he wrote:
Hoggard High head coach Scott Braswell and Cooper are in regular contact, so the high school coach knows what his former player has dealt with over the past five years. “He’s the type of guy the University of North Carolina needed in their football program, to see the program through that rough patch,” Braswell says. “I have tried to encourage him to hang in there through some of those hard times and to assert himself as a leader. He’s probably too humble to realize just how much people respect him and think of him. I’ve encouraged him as always to make good decisions, and I think he’s done that.”
Having played for three different coaches, blocked for eight different running backs and ridden out a scandal, Jonathan Cooper is well-equipped, on and off the football field, for wherever life takes him in the future. But as any good left guard would, he’s thinking play to play. “I’ll probably think about that more down the road,” he says. “I kind of use that to take lessons from each coach, each running back that I’ve had, and kind of add to my arsenal of skills and abilities. Now, I’m trying to focus on the present, and take from that what I need.”
Our December 2012 issue also includes an on-scene profile of Adam Greenberg and the next step in his storybook professional