SEATTLE – Even when he couldn’t run, Deontae Cooper always made sure to look the part of a running back.
After a recent practice, Cooper emerged from the Huskies locker room with two hairstyling tools: a full- bristled brush and a pick brush he used to puff up his impressive mohawk. He wears two diamond stud earrings, and he’s meticulous about the game-day uniform accessories he wears on his forearms and legs.
“I’ve got to keep it right,” he said.
Now more than ever, he’s finally starting to look the part of a premier running back.
Cooper, a fifth-year senior, made his starting debut for the Huskies three weeks ago, a significant accomplishment for a running back who had to overcome three major knee injuries before ever suiting up on a fall Saturday.
It’s odd now to think that he is the one running back, among a committee of four, who has remained healthy for the Huskies this year.
“He’s been such a rock out here the entire season,” UW coach Chris Petersen said Thursday. “The one guy we’ve always been able to count on is Coop.”
With Shaq Thompson moving back to his preferred role as a starting linebacker, Cooper is eager for his shot to prove he can be the featured running back as the Huskies (6-4, 2-4 Pac-12) prepare for Saturday’s game at No. 17 Arizona (7-2, 4-2).
Among UW’s full-time running backs, Cooper has the fewest carries this season, with 43, but has the best yards-per-carry average, at 5.3.
Petersen, well aware of the three ACL tears that wiped out Cooper’s first three years at UW, admitted he was reluctant to push Cooper too much when the new coaching staff began spring drills.
“We were kind of holding our breath quite a bit,” Petersen said.
Cooper, who arrived at UW in the spring of 2010, likens his collegiate career to a presidency: He’s now in the early stages of his second term – with the NCAA having granted two additional years after this season – and he believes his best days are still ahead of him.
“I’m definitely more confident with my body,” he said. “Last year, was kind of a feeling-out process. But this year I feel like I’m really confident in my legs and my speed and my ability to play.”
He’s ready for more, and Petersen said he won’t hesitate this time to give Cooper that chance.
“It’s nice when good things happen to good guys,” Petersen said.
And what’s good for Cooper could be even better for his team.
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