IRVINE, Calif. – Cooper Kupp covered plenty of ground during his first pro season with the Los Angeles Rams, finishing with 62 receptions for 869 yards and five touchdowns.
His catch total ranked third among NFL rookies, the receiving yards ranked 24th among all players and he was targeted a team-high 95 times by Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
Still, it may dwarf in comparison to the ground Kupp’s managed to cover this offseason – especially this past month – in his Southern California home. His routes often start in different places, but they almost always end in the same spot.
“I’ve designated myself as the diaper changer because it’s just about the only thing I can do right now,” said the former Eastern Washington standout and newly anointed father after the first day of Rams training camp at UC Irvine. “… You’ve got diapers in the laundry room, diapers in the kitchen, you’ve got dirty diapers up in the bedroom. Just making sure that’s all collected, taking that out to the trash. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt.”
Such is life for a first-time dad.
On July 3, nearly one month before Kupp embarked on his second pro season in Los Angeles, his wife Anna gave birth to the couple’s first child, a son they’d name after his father: Cooper Jameson Kupp. (Goff and other L.A. teammates ribbed Kupp to go for something more creative, such as “Dixie” or “Stanley”.)
There’s no playbook for this chapter of Kupp’s life, so the ex-EWU wideout finds himself deferring to something that’s been equally pivotal to his career on the football field.
“Once you have your son, you can plan out all these things that you want to do or that you’re supposed to do,” Kupp said. “You kind of just know what you’re supposed to do. … It’s kind of crazy, that parenting instinct that just pops in.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise the most sure-handed wide receiver in FCS history has discovered a knack for changing diapers. He’s still not big on doing the laundry, “and now we have tons of laundry,” Kupp said, but on the bright side, he’ll have some reprieve from the everyday chores while the Rams undergo training camp in Irvine.
But he also concedes, “Easily the hardest day of my life has been having to say goodbye to my little son and my wife and coming down here. … It’s so hard to leave your family, but it’s such a blessing to be able to come down here and spend time with these guys and I’m definitely lucky.”
A lifetime of playing – and thriving – on the big stage couldn’t have prepared Kupp for the birth of his first child. His wife was awake for 40 consecutive hours – “an absolute trooper,” Kupp said of Anna, a former EWU heptathlete.
Unlike on the gridiron, where Kupp is always doing something for the betterment of the team, he said he felt “completely helpless” during the childbirth process.
“Trying to do everything you can, but feeling like you can’t really do much,” he said. “But watching her go through that, I just can’t explain. Watching the miracle that that is. I obviously have a newfound respect for my wife and what she went through, so it was just an incredible experience.
“It’s an absolute life-changer. There’s nothing like it.”
Kupp’s son was just 23 days old when the Rams receiver reported to training camp last Thursday, but he points out he’ll be twice as old the next time they’re together.
“Kind of a weird deal thinking about that,” he said.
The youngest Kupp joins a family with strong football roots. Cooper’s grandfather Jake and father Craig both had stints in the NFL. The second-year Rams wideout could be on the verge of his first Pro Bowl with another strong year. His younger brother Ketner, a college senior, is EWU’s projected starter at strong-side linebacker this fall.
But the rich football lineage doesn’t mean Cooper will necessarily push his son in the same direction.
“I want him to go do whatever he falls in love with, whatever he’s passionate about,” Kupp said. “Whatever his god-given abilities and passion are, I just want him to go after it with everything he’s got.”
The numbers Kupp posted in 2017 indicate a glowing season for any NFL rookie – and they weren’t just empty stats. The Rams clinched the NFC West title with two weeks left in the regular season and finished the year with an 11-5 record. Kupp caught the winning TD against Tennessee in the game that guaranteed the organization’s first division title in 14 years.
More is expected of the Rams in 2018, mainly because of the heights they reached last season and the additions they made this offseason. A few of Kupp’s new teammates in L.A. include receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib.
“I think the best part of it is you get to go against the best in practice,” Kupp said. “We get to go against some really good ballplayers day in, day out. … There’s going to be very few games that you’re going to go up against someone that’s better than the guys we’ve got lining up across from us.”
Visits to Cheney are few and far between for Kupp these days, although EWU fans may want to keep their eyes peeled for him on Nov. 24, when the Rams are on a bye week. If the Eagles qualify for the FCS playoffs and do so without locking in a first-round bye, they’d play on that date.
“They’re going to want the first-round bye,” he said, “but selfishly I would like it if they just play a game.”
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