HOMER, La – Pictures of his mother are one of the few things that Ryan Cooper has left of her.
“My mother died when I was 13 years old,” Cooper said. “We had an incredible bond. We played together outside. We played catch together. We ran outside together. We did everything together.”
Before a brain tumor took her life, Cooper made a promise.
"He made a lot of promises to her,” Aaron Cornelious, Ryan Cooper's father said. “One of those was that he was going to graduate, earn his college degree and play college football.”
Cooper has lived up to that promise on the field. He’s one of the top athletes in the state of Louisiana in the recruiting rankings. His performance during recruiting camps was good enough to grab a scholarship offer from Grambling St. University and interest from Louisiana Tech, Central Arkansas, Arkansas St., Southern Miss, and several other NCAA Div. I colleges.
With a full of Grambling alumi, the Tigers appeared to be a perfect fit for Cooper, who planned to commit to his home state school over the Christmas break of 2013. But plans changed for Grambling when former head coach Doug Williams was fired and newly hired head coach Broderick Fobbs took control in December of 2013. According to Cooper’s father, the university rescinded Cooper’s scholarship offer just two months before National Signing Day.
"I found out through my dad,” Cooper said. “It was an email that said they were reevaluating most of their recruits and were focusing on offensive and defensive linemen.”
“We respect coach Fobbs decision in that regard,” Cooper’s father, Aaron Cornelious, said. “We are a Grambling family, I'm a Grambling alumni."
Grambling has offered Cooper the opportunity to walk-on and earn a spot on the roster. Cooper is also receiving interest from smaller colleges and universities like Quachita Baptist and Arkansas Tech.
If his father has anything to say about it, Cooper will attend college one way or another, because he made a promise to his mother, too.
"If I have to pay for him to go to school out of my pocket, that’s what I’ll do. If he has to walk on, it is what it is. But, I’m not worried about it. Ryan Cooper will earn a scholarship at some point. He’s too gifted of an athlete.”
Cooper hasn’t given up. He’s still training every day in Homer with the intent of playing, because his mother and father haven’t given up on him.
“My momma always told all us kids,” Cooper said. “Be what you wanna be. Shoot for your goals and never say you can’t.