Humble beginnings served Cardinals' top pick well

Cards' top pick Cooper was picked on as a kid due to his size but learned humility from those hard times.

TEMPE, Ariz. – If it’s true that adversity makes a better man, Jonathan Cooper may be living proof.

The Cardinals’ first-round draft pick couldn’t play football until seventh grade because he was too big. He used to carry the water cooler for the football team and run up and down the sidelines cheering his older brother, Joshua.

He was picked on because of his size, so he often stayed inside reading books to avoid the unwanted attention.

“It definitely makes me a hard worker and somebody who can push (himself),” Cooper said. “It makes me very humble. I had humble beginnings coming up, and I feel like that has just stuck with me and allowed me to relate to a wide variety of people, because I’ve been on the side where you’re not as popular and you’re picked on.

Cooper wasn’t heavily recruited initially (although he eventually earned 11 college scholarship offers), but those early childhood lessons and his work ethic changed all those doubts once he arrived at North Carolina.

When the Cardinals introduced him Friday, general manager Steve Keim described Cooper as a complete person who will help the team on the field with his ability and off it with his intelligence and willingness to serve the community.

If the press conference and ensuing interviews are ample proof, Cooper is as impressive personally as he is physically. He’s articulate, he’s friendly, he’s open and, as he stated, he possesses an innate ability to relate to people.

Maybe those early knocks helped, but then, so did the vital encouragement he received from his family.

“I was blessed to have a two-parent home, so that really helped me and benefited me when times were tough,” said Cooper, who has two brother and two sisters. “They kind of supported me and picked me back up.”

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