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Wednesday, December 11, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Sports

WSU’s Cooper goes to Cleveland

PULLMAN – Xavier Cooper sat at a draft party he hosted with Tacoma football royalty and angrily texted his agent.

Told by his representatives and others that he would be a mid-to-late second-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, the third round’s end was fast approaching and defensive linemen were flying off the board, none of them him.

“I was getting ready to shut the party down to be honest,” Cooper said.

Fellow Wilson High graduates and current NFL players Desmond and Isaiah Trufant and their parents, waited anxiously beside him, wondering when their fellow Ram would discover his professional destination.

To work through his stress, Cooper called a nephew, currently incarcerated. So he was busy when the Cleveland Browns made a trade with the New England Patriots to acquire the 96th pick in the draft, the one that would end Cooper’s wait.

With that pick, Cleveland selected the Washington State defensive lineman, adding him to a draft class that already included Washington’s Danny Shelton and Utah’s Nate Orchard.

While Cooper played primarily defensive end for WSU, the Browns are expected to use him as an interior player and the team website lists him as a defensive tackle. It’s likely Cleveland plans to pair him with the much larger Shelton to provide a pass rush in the middle of their defense.

“They plan on using me right next to him,” Cooper said. “Danny’s more of a nose tackle; I’m more of a ‘3-technique.’ We’re both different players but us together, you’re talking about what could be one of the best defensive lines in the National Football League for years to come.”

While Cooper and Shelton both grew up on the West Side – Shelton attended Auburn High – the Cougar said that he didn’t know the Washington nose tackle growing up.

But Cooper trained with former Huskies Marcus Peters and Shaq Thompson, and Desmond Trufant played with Shelton in college as well, and he said all gave glowing references.

His selection makes Cooper the highest-drafted WSU defensive lineman since Dorian Boose and Leon Bender were drafted in the second round in 1998. He is the first Cougars defensive lineman drafted since the Tennessee Titans selected Rien Long in the fourth round of the 2003 draft.

He started the final 34 of the 36 games he played for the Cougars, leading the team with 9.5 tackles for loss as a redshirt junior this past season, also collecting 37 tackles and five sacks.

“I really felt like he was a difference-maker,” said Browns general manager Ray Farmer. “The guy played with an unbelievable motor. Ran and hustled to the ball. Showed that quick first-step explosion to beat and block and get upfield. I think the guy has a chance to be a really good NFL player.”

Still waiting to be selected are two other former Cougars, quarterback Connor Halliday and wide receiver Vince Mayle. Both hope to be selected today as the draft concludes with rounds 4-7.

Perhaps boding well for Halliday is that Washington acquired picks Nos. 112, 167 and 181 from the Seahawks in a trade Friday. The Redskins have been linked to Halliday throughout the draft evaluation process.

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