Cooper follows dad's path from Mainland to Temple

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jim cooper Bill LeConey/Jim Cooper with his father, Jim Sr., after officially signing to play football at Temple University. The elder Cooper also kicked at Temple LINWOOD – Jim Cooper took a few phantom swipes at a football in the library of Mainland Regional High School on Wednesday.

The next time he kicks for real, it will be in a far different (and noisier) environment: Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Temple Owls.

Cooper, the finest kicker in Cape-Atlantic League history and one of the best in the state, officially signed to play football at Temple University on National Signing Day, Feb. 6.

“I’ve been itching for this day to happen,” Cooper said. “I fell in love with the campus, where I saw the program going, and the facilities. I saw a lot of potential there. We’re up-and-coming, and it’s really the biggest football I can play close to home.”

Temple will compete in a revamped Big East Conference under new coach Matt Ruhle. Cooper is the heir apparent to the program's all-time leading scorer, Brandon McManus, but he will compete for the starting job against incumbent Colby Perry and walk-on freshman Nick Viscoe.

Cooper was initially recruited by UMass, Maryland and Boston College. He had pretty much settled on BC before a visit to Temple’s Philadelphia campus last fall for a kicking competition with about 25 other recruits.

“He went up and totally outkicked everybody,” said his father, Jim Sr. “They called two days later with a scholarship offer.”

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the elder Cooper also kicked at Temple, from 1982-87. “But this is his decision, not mine,” Jim Sr. said, “because of all the hard work he put in to get here. It wasn’t as if he was going there to follow in my footsteps. It just worked out that way.”

The elder Cooper doesn't have to worry about his son breaking any of his records at Temple - because he doesn't have any. His main claim to fame is kicking a game-winning field goal against West Virginia in 1984.

At Mainland, the younger Cooper set the state record for field goals in a career with 31. He set the mark by kicking three field goals in his final game, including the last one with 22 seconds on the clock on Thanksgiving Day.

“I think there’s a fine line between being conceited and confident,” he said. “I’ve devoted my life to kicking, and I’m going to continue to do it. I never really have an off-season; it’s lifting, stretching and kicking, I don’t really know anything else. I’m confident that if I work my hardest, God’s going to take care of the rest.”

Cooper is also passionate about community service. In fact, while in Texas last month to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he passed up a chance to compete in an NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition because of a pre-scheduled commitment to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“I just saw it as a better opportunity to help more people,” he said of his community service to CHOP. “Just to see what those kids have gone through at such an early age, it makes me realize that I don’t really have a right to complain about anything. There’s always someone else out there that’s going through something worse than you. It kind of puts things in perspective.” Jim Cooper Bill LeConey/Mainland’s Jim Cooper (second from left) with his friends and former teammates Gordon Winarick, Tom Bradway and Ryan Brenner after officially signing to play football at Temple University

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