On Feb. 13, 2022, the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals to win Super Bowl LVI. Rams’ wide receiver, Cooper Kupp, won Super Bowl LVI MVP for scoring the winning touchdown and all but one touchdown in the game. Three days before Super Bowl LVI, Kupp won NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Yet back in 2012 when Kupp graduated high school, he was a zero-star recruit with only one offer from Eastern Washington University, an FCS school.
Kupp took his only offer as an opportunity to work hard and grow into the player he is today. At Eastern Washington University, Kupp made friends with the janitors. He needed them to open the facilities in February so he could catch tennis balls from a machine. He needed them on Saturdays, long after the games were over, so he could watch game film into the late hours of the night. Kupp wanted to know what every player on his team was doing. He left EWU with 6,464 receiving yards, that’s more than any college receiver at any level. He left college with the experience he needed and with a knowledge of the game no other player had just starting their career.
Kupp was drafted to the Rams in the third round in 2017. Rams head coach Sean McVay fell in love with Kupp and commented to ESPN that it felt like he was more of a receiver coach from their initial conversations back in 2017. Kupp’s journey didn’t end when he was drafted. He continued to have to work for his starting position. Kupp was set back in 2018 with a torn ACL and came back to start in 2020.
In 2021, Kupp had one of the greatest statistical receiving seasons of all time in the NFL. In 2021 alone in the regular season, Kupp led the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947), and touchdown receptions (16), receiving the triple crown. This post season Kupp set the NFL record for receptions at 33. Kupp won the triple crown, Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP in one season. Jerry Rice is the only wide receiver in NFL history to do all of those things in an entire career. It took Cooper Kupp one season.
“I don’t feel deserving of this. … I don’t know what to say,” Kupp told NBC’s Mike Tirico on the podium after winning Super Bowl LVI MVP.
Kupp’s journey to greatness has been nothing short of easy. Student-athletes aspiring to continue their careers to the next level can learn many things from Kupp and his story so far.
Advice for Student-Athletes
Athletes like Cooper Kupp didn’t need a star rating out of high school in order to play college football. Kupp went the extra mile to study film later than his teammates and practice before anybody was thinking about football. It’s important to understand that just like Kupp you are not defined by a star rating whether you have one or not. The recruiting process looks different for every athlete and their families. The important lesson is it takes hard work to play college sports and beyond. It takes going the extra mile and putting in work outside of practices to get to where Kupp is at. Kupp kept working after receiving no offers to end up getting one opportunity at EWU. He took every opportunity he had to better himself as a football player.
So, student-athletes keep putting in the extra work, don’t let star ratings detour you and just like Kupp you’ll get your opportunity.