Washington State defensive lineman Xavier Cooper will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft this spring.
Cooper, 23, is a junior but said he will take online classes to graduate in May with a degree in criminal justice. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman played his high school ball at Tacoma’s Wilson High.
“It was a tough decision just because I’m leaving the university that gave so much to me and my family – the opportunity for me to even be here and receive an education,” Cooper said. “That was a tough decision but ultimately me and my family realized the opportunity doesn’t happen very often for anybody and it was there for the taking and I felt that it was in my heart to go get it.”
While the NFL draft advisory board recommended that Cooper stay in school, that’s the case for anyone who is not expected to be a first- or second-round selection.
NFL draft analyst Rob Rang of CBS said that Cooper does not have to fear going undrafted.
“He’s probably an early Day 3 player, which would mean fourth round,” Rang said. “I could see third round. He’s a big, athletic guy who moves well. He’s shown versatility at defensive tackle and defensive end. You’d like him to be a little bit stronger, but he’s a legitimate talent.”
Cooper started for three years at either defensive tackle or defensive end for WSU. He led the Cougars with five sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss this season. The Cougars will have a decidedly different look on the defensive line next season, as fellow longtime starter Kalafitoni Pole has graduated and is pursuing his own NFL dream.
Cooper plans to sign with an agent shortly and believes he will be invited to the NFL scouting combine.
“It’s a risk, but there’s risk in anything you want in life and you can’t be afraid to fail,” Cooper said. “Anything I’ve wanted I’ve had to beat the obstacle of being afraid, but you can’t go anywhere if you’re afraid.”
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