Right down the middle

First slide

Crowds chant his name. Sports Illustrated features him in an issue. He makes field goals from 53 yards out and maintains a 4.3 GPA. He is David Cooper, senior placekicker for Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria.

Football didn't always come easily to Cooper. Growing up in Korea, he never kicked field goals on his school football team and rarely kicked extra points. After his family was transferred back to the United States and he enrolled at Ireton, Cooper had just met all of his new teammates when he was put on the spot by Head Coach Tony Verducci. After the team had run two 300-yard sprints, Verducci made a wager with the team: Cooper would kick 10 field goals of varying distances, and for each one he missed, the team would have to run an extra 100-yard sprint. Cooper remembers missing seven of the 10 attempts.

"I was embarrassed," he said. "I knew I was capable of so much more, and I was very frustrated with how my first impression with the team went."

About a month later, the team was at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal for summer practices. The same Cooper who barely could make an extra point not long before was kicking 30-yard field goals with ease. His progress continued - a few medium-range field goals and kickoffs into the end zone, but nothing that would be "ESPN-worthy."

Then came Week 3 of the season at St. Alban's School in Washington. Cooper nailed a 42-yard field goal in the rain, with the wind blowing in his face, and room to spare on the kick. Not only would this kick set the school record for longest kick, it also would set the stage for Cooper to break his own record multiple times.

Almost a year to the day later, Cooper was driving his foot through another ball against St. Alban's, this time from 53 yards. The game announcer even remarked, tongue-in-cheek: "David Cooper: (Washington Redskins owner) Dan Snyder wants to know if you're busy on Sunday."

The Oct. 5 issue of Sports Illustrated featured Cooper in its "Faces in the Crowd" section. Cooper took it all in stride, responding with modesty.

"I'm definitely not used to the attention, but I really appreciate the fact that my teammate Ryan (Verducci) nominated me for the spot in 'Faces in the Crowd.'" he said. "I was just doing my job, and I was lucky enough to be rewarded with something I'll never forget.

"I just want to thank my teammates … for all of their support and always making me look good."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015