One year to the day after his last game at Eastern Washington, Cooper Kupp will be back in his home state, playing against the team he rooted for as a child.
This will be the ultimate homecoming for Kupp, but don’t expect a parade on Sunday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
Instead, the forecast is for rain showers and a deluge of boos, especially if Kupp and the Los Angeles Rams manage to knock off the Seahawks.
“You know it’s going to be loud,” Kupp said this week. “But we’re prepared for that, we understand that you’re not going to be able to hear anything.”
Sadly, that means Kupp won’t hear the cheers from Section 305, where two dozen friends and family members will be sitting with binoculars in hand.
“They’re terrible seats, actually” said Kupp’s father, Craig, who bought them through the Rams organization. “Still, it’s all very exciting.”
Indeed, the stakes are higher than anything Cooper ever knew at Eastern, where he twice helped the Eagles come within a game of playing in the FCS national title game.
“It will be cool to go back up there,” he said Friday from Los Angeles. “I know there is going to be a lot of people coming in from Yakima and Spokane, so I’m really excited for that,” Cooper said.
“A lot of people have been hitting me up so I’m very excited. It will be fun to go up there and see everyone,” Cooper said.
However this is a business trip.
“Cooper is very focused for this game,” said Craig, who should know; he’s a former NFL quarterback himself.
The Kupps have traveled to most of Cooper’s games, an odyssey that began in April when the Rams took Cooper in the third round of the NFL Draft.
Together they’ve surprised most of their fans and all the experts. The Rams, 4-12 last year and picked to finish last in the NFC West Division, are sitting in first place at 9-4.
“He’s in a really good place, feeling confident and settling in,” Craig said. “It’s been a growth year, and he’s getting used to the level of competition.”
Actually, he’s doing better than that. Cooper is the leading rookie wide receiver in the league, and with 783 yards already is the most productive first-year wideout in Rams history.
Last week against the Eagles, he caught five balls for a career-high 118 yards. However, the Rams lost 43-35, their second straight defeat.
“He would trade all of those numbers for a win,” Craig said.
That goes double for Sunday’s game. A win would give the Rams a two-game lead on 8-5 Seattle with two weeks left. A loss would leave them tied and on the short end of the tie-breaker because Seattle won the earlier meeting, 16-10 in L.A. on Oct. 8.
That game still haunts Cooper. With five seconds left at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Rams had fourth and goal at the Seattle 20. Quarterback Jared Goff fired down the middle to Cooper, who launched himself toward the ball only to have it graze off his fingers.
It would have been a remarkable catch on the best of days, but Kupp blamed himself.
“At the end of the day, just face the facts,” he said after the game. “I gotta make that play. I’m going to take responsibility for that. Extreme ownership.”
To atone, Cooper and the Rams will need to beat the Seahawks. Growing up in Yakima, he was a Seahawks fan and made several trips to Seattle.
“As the kids were growing up, that was our team,” Craig Kupp said.
Not anymore; these days the Kupps are wearing No. 18 Rams jerseys, the same kind spotted this fall in Cheney during Eastern Washington home games.
The Kupps were there too this year, watching Cooper’s younger brother Ketner play linebacker for the Eagles.
Ketner’s last game with Cooper was last Dec. 17, when the Eagles fell to Youngstown State in an FCS playoff game. Sunday’s homecoming wouldn’t be complete without Ketner in the stands at Century Link.
“This is such a special occasion,” Craig said.