What makes the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper one of the NFL’s top road racers?

FRISCO, Texas – Amari Cooper’s feet barely seem to touch the ground as he runs.

As others pound the grass with their feet, Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys’ $ 20 million a year catcher, seems to almost float before planting his right foot in the ground and exploding to his left like a bloated sports car that hits 60 mph in just seconds.

“He’s definitely got a really good pace for him,” said Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. “He likes to play with a rhythm on his routes and obviously he has that change of pace but he has this suddenness that when he goes there he goes. I think it’s a great tool for him.”

No team should understand Cooper’s road racing ability better than Monday night’s enemy at AT&T Stadium (ESPN, 8:15 p.m. ET), the Philadelphia Eagles.

In seven career games against the Eagles, Cooper has caught 33 passes for 614 yards and four touchdowns. Six of those games have been played since being traded to the Cowboys in 2018 and three have coached over 100 yards. His best game was his sixth as a Cowboy after being dealt with by the Oakland Raiders, when he caught 10 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. But Cooper injured his ribs in the Week 2 win over the Los Angeles Chargers and is questionable.

If the Eagles wanted to have a better read on Cooper, they could take to his Instagram account. @therouterunnerofficial, which he started earlier this month.

“It’s for everyone, man,” Cooper said. “It’s a brand. I understand that there are people who don’t know much about football, but they still watch football. Lots of people watch football, and so it’s just to teach people the intricacies of the game. Because even the people who play it and know football, they don’t really know the intricacies of road racing, per se. That’s why it’s so fun. “

The idea came to Cooper a few months ago. He was reading “The Airbnb Story”, a book about the creation and success of the online hosting company, and the memoir of Nike co-founder Phil Knight, “Shoe Dog”.

“It made perfect sense with what I want to do,” Cooper said. “One day [Knight] was running just because he was a runner and he was completely lost with what he wanted to do in life. He didn’t know what he was going to do after college and he just got the idea for running shoes. It made perfect sense to me because he’s a runner and I’m a road runner. “

Arguably one of the best road racers in the NFL actually, but he puts himself first.

“Of course,” he smiles. “That’s why he’s THE road racer.”

Not too long ago, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams ranked his best road riders and forgot to name Cooper. He’s been kicking himself ever since.

“If you asked me to list my groomsmen now, I would probably leave one of them out,” Adams said. “Coop is definitely in my top five so I just want to give it that credit first because anybody can sway a DB and really get them to do what’s planned every time – that’s what I’m proud of, if I want to go left I feel like I can really make you move right whenever I want. I also watch the Coop movie … The way we can attack guys and manipulate a defender, that is is between me, him and [Chargers receiver] Keenan [Allen]. The way we move people is really similar, so I have a lot of respect for Coop. “

Cooper places Adams and Allen among his favorite road racers. He also has Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, as well as two Alabama alumni at Calvin Ridley of the Falcons and Jerry Jeudy of the Raiders.

Ridley was in high school when he started watching Cooper. They have spoken occasionally since.

“He’s one of the guys that I definitely watch out for all the time,” Ridley said. “I could improve with him anytime, any day, just by watching him.”

That’s why Cooper launched the official routerunner brand. He puts videos on Instagram page courses in training and matches, asking spectators questions.

“It’s something easy because it’s something that I love to do, something that I’ve done my whole life,” he said. “And it’s fun at the same time. I love when people ask me about running.”

Cooper is 27, but he’s the veteran voice in the Cowboys wide receiver room. He always gives advice. Early in his return from offseason ankle surgery at training camp, HBO’s “Hard Knocks” cameras caught him teaching CeeDee Lamb different versions to get a half off the ground. corner.

“He gave me clues on how to move a guy or just be cheating,” Lamb said. “He is very understanding. Very easy going. Easy to choose his thoughts.”

Cooper said: “It would be a disservice to my teammates doing the same job as me to constantly see them go on a route that might not be the best way to go and just say nothing.”

Cooper said his road running ability was a gift from God, but it also came from the hard work he put in while growing up in Miami. He started playing football in an after-school program.

“This is where I became as a technician because everyone was so good so you had to focus on the little details of the run because everyone would be playing receiver,” Cooper said. “I don’t know if you know that, but when you play football in a disorganized way, you have a quarterback and everyone’s at the front desk. Our after-school program advisor, he was the quarterback. just leave and throw it at you if you’re open. So if you turn it over, ‘Why didn’t you throw the ball at me?’ He’s going to be like, ‘You’re not opening up.’ So I started to find ways to open up. “

Over the years he has mastered the rules of performing an incline or a return, but Cooper has incorporated his own style into each.

“It’s like the difference between going to school and studying something and doing the real job,” Cooper said. “It’s like you see the differences between what you learned in school and doing it, if that makes sense.”

He paints outside the lines, so to speak, with a variety of versions designed to fend off cornerback. But what matters most is gaining the quarterback’s confidence by being at the appropriate depth or width designated by the playcall.

“It’s interesting with [Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott]. He doesn’t care what I do. He doesn’t care, “Cooper said.” He just wants to make sure I understand what he’s got to do. For example, like the touchdown against Tampa Bay on the cone road. I would say to him in training: ‘I’m going to this outing. I will do it. He’s like, ‘I don’t care. I throw it in one place as soon as I see you break. The funny thing is that the snap was handled poorly and it shows you that he was really telling the truth because he threw it in that spot anyway. It didn’t matter what I did. Just when I broke, he threw it there. “

Teammates marvel at Cooper’s road race. They know they are seeing something special. Cooper’s fellow receiver, Michael Gallup, who suffers from calf strain, was asked to describe Cooper’s style.

“He knows what he wants to do when he gets up there, but even if the plans change he’s so good at doing something from scratch,” Gallup said. “But at the same time, him who has a plan when he gets on the line, he knows just in his head, his determination, that he’s going to win no matter what. That’s definitely what he’s got us. said over and over. He’s going to win the line right away, even if he doesn’t get the ball. So really just direct instincts, strength, speed. He’s got too much – you can’t put one word about Amari Cooper. You can’t. “

No, it’s actually two words: road racer.

NFL Nation Green Bay Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Atlanta Falcons reporter Michael Rothstein contributed.

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