WKU’s Cooper leading football team with big personality

Senior wide receiver Quinterrance Cooper has seen good times and bad at Western, but before coming to WKU had seen almost only good.

Zach Greenwell

This story was originally published Aug. 21, 2010.

Senior wide receiver Quinterrance Cooper was always a winner in high school.

His team at St. Augustine High (Fla.) went 15-0 during his junior season. He experienced only three total losses as a varsity player.

That’s what’s made his time at Western so hard. Cooper has been with the Toppers since they first began the transition to Football Bowl Subdivision play in 2007, and it’s been a bumpy road with a lot of losses along the way.

“I’m hungry,” Cooper said. “Sometimes I don’t feel like I know what it feels like (to win), but it’s still in the back of my mind. I know exactly what it feels like, and I’m going back to get it.”

Cooper has the type of optimism that Head Coach Willie Taggart has strived for since arriving at the helm.

Some players have yet to buy in to the new regime, but Taggart said Cooper is at the forefront.

“He’s been around here for a while,” Taggart said. “He told me the other day, ‘Coach, I haven’t won in a long time.’ Well, then you’ve got to do something different. If you haven’t won in a long time, well it’s time to do something different. If it takes stepping up and being a leader and holding guys accountable, you’ve got to do that. If it takes catching more balls than you ever have before, do that.

“But until you do something different, you’re going to get the same results.”

The results haven’t been pretty for Cooper so far. The Toppers went 9-27 during his first three years, and he said the 7-5 campaign during his true freshman season seems like a distant memory.

Enter Taggart. After hearing about how Taggart played a role in helping Stanford turn around its program over the past few years, Cooper said he knew he had to put his fate in the new coach’s hands.

“I’m all the way in,” he said. “Whatever coach Taggart wants to be done, it can be done. If he tells us to jump off the top of the stadium with a sheet, I’m going to jump off with a sheet, because he knows what he’s talking about.”

Cooper is arguably one of Western’s most outspoken athletes. He’s constantly posting updates to his followers on Twitter, whether it’s to give junior running back Bobby Rainey a hard time or just to give an insight into what’s going on inside his head.

Cooper said what you see is what you get with him. He lists Charles Barkley as one of his favorite athletes because of his candidness, and that’s the way he says it has to be in sports.

“The second you’re dishonest with somebody, people think they’ve arrived or they think they’re something they’re not,” he said. “Growing up, every coach I ever played for was honest with me, so I feel like if I say something to a teammate, coach or fan, I’m 100-percent straight with them.”

Rainey, who’s been Cooper’s roommate since they arrived on the Hill, said that for a guy who likes to be vocal, the last thing Cooper wants is the limelight.

“He’s a vet, and he knows what it takes,” Rainey said. “A lot of people other places just think about getting theirs at receiver, but Coop is completely different than that. He prides himself on blocking for other people and letting other people shine. He’d much rather see other people in the spotlight.”

Cooper has only totaled 641 receiving yards in his time at Western, but he said he’s not worried about that. Twenty straight losses will always sting much worse than individual stats, he said.

“I don’t care what happens as long as we get a ‘W,’” Cooper said. “On the field, I’ve told plenty of guys that I want to do all of the intangible things. The block that springs somebody for a touchdown, the third-down catch, the fourth-down catch – that’s the guy I want to be. That’s the guy that’s under the radar, but that’s the guy that helps the team win.”

It can be tough trying to snap the longest losing streak in the nation.

Cooper has been through several fall camps – some more pleasant than others – but he said each one is always a grind.

That’s why you’ll have to excuse him for lightening the mood from time to time. Camp may be the time to grow as a team, but Cooper said he’s going to have a little fun in the process.

“You’re getting drilled every day, so you’ve got to try to loosen it up,” he said. “It’s not all fun and games, but when we have a chance, you try to have a few laughs and enjoy yourself. If you’re together like a family, you’ll fight for that person beside you.”

Taggart said Cooper’s charisma is undeniable. It’s what makes him easy to get along with and it’s what helps him loosen people up, he said.

But Taggart said it’s also what earns Cooper attention and respect – respect that he’s earned by making it through the hard times.

“He’s one of the guys I’d really like to step up and be a leader, because he has that ability,” Taggart said. “When he speaks, they’ll listen to him. I really hope that he continues to grow in that aspect, and on the field, he’s coming. He’s such a competitor – he wants to win.”