In the belly of Seahawks fervor and their Yakima home a 2½-hour drive from Lumen Field, the Kupp family has grown accustomed to friendly ribbing.
The anti-Los Angeles Rams rhetoric heats up twice a year.
Yakima Davis High School senior Katrina Kupp gets the worst of it from her partisan classmates, many of whom find themselves torn when Seattle faces its NFC West rival.
Mixed emotions are customary when a hometown hero faces his hometown’s team, which happens again Sunday when the Seahawks (10-4) host the Rams (9-5) in a game that can decide the division crown.
“It’s Seahawks all the way here,” said Kupp, who recently signed a letter of intent with Eastern Washington’s women’s soccer team.
“(Seahawks fans from school) will say, ‘I hope the Seahawks beat your brother, but I want him to play well.”
Her father, Craig Kupp, hears much of the same.
“I get told, ‘I hope Coop has a great game – but not too great,’ ” said Craig, a former Pacific Lutheran quarterback who had brief stints with the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals in the early 1990s.
Cooper Kupp – the former EWU star and the Rams’ leading receiver (84 receptions for 904 yards) – returns to the Northwest amid a pandemic that kept him from visiting Yakima for Christmas three days before kickoff.
With no fans allowed at Lumen Field on Sunday due to Washington’s social distancing restrictions, the Kupps won’t make their usual trek over the Cascade Mountains to wear their blue-and-gold attire among the sea of raucous “12th man” fans.
Nine years ago, Cooper Kupp was among the neon-green crowd.
Craig and a 17-year-old Cooper – guests of retired Seahawks quarterback Sam Atkins – cheered from their ideal 40-yard seats as the Seahawks edged the Baltimore Ravens 22-15 on Nov. 13, 2011.
“We supported the Seahawks and went to a few games. That was a fun night that stood out to me,” Craig said.
Cooper didn’t have a particular allegiance to one NFL team before entering the league in 2017, Craig said, but was fascinated by the players.
He never owned a Seahawks jersey despite his close proximity and loose fandom. He also followed the New Orleans Saints, and occasionally wore Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys jerseys as a child.
Jake Kupp, Cooper’s grandfather, played offensive line in the NFL for 11 years, much of his career with the Saints where he was a team captain and remains listed among the franchise’s all-time greats.
Craig Kupp played one season with the Cowboys in 1991, when he was briefly No. 2 on the depth chart after Troy Aikman was injured.
“I grew up a Seahawks fan until I was about 8 or 9 years old,” Cooper said in November.
“But as soon as I realized it was my bedtime as soon as the game as over, I wanted good games and overtime – I just wanted to see good football being played. So I kind of moved away from that, and just liked watching players and watching the game.”
As much success Cooper has in his four NFL seasons, the Kupp family isn’t over-the-top with its Rams allegiance.
There is no Rams flag hanging from the porch or Rams decals on their cars. Apparel is often reserved for game days.
“We have Rams gear, but a lot more EWU gear,” Katrina said.
That makes sense.
Cooper’s younger brother and former teammate, Ketner Kupp, was an All-Big Sky Conference linebacker at EWU who briefly played for the Rams in 2019. He is a defensive analyst on EWU’s coaching staff.
The youngest of three brothers, Kobe Kupp, is studying computer science at EWU.
Katrina joins an EWU women’s soccer team in 2021 that is often near or at the top of the Big Sky.
“It will be fun to have my brothers come to my games next season,” Katrina said.
“I don’t think a lot of college students have family around, so that will be good.”
She went to plenty of Cooper’s games at EWU, where he set nearly every Football Championship Subdivision receiving record from 2013-16 and drafted by the Rams in the third round in 2017.
Cooper has career totals of 280 receptions for 3,504 yards and 24 touchdowns, despite missing half of 2017 after sustaining a season-ending injury against the Seahawks.
The Rams, who beat Seattle 23-16 last month, are 5-2 against the Seahawks since drafting Kupp.
Kupp’s totals against his hometown’s team include 35 receptions for 412 yards and three touchdowns.
He will be joined in Seattle by two college teammates in Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam and kick/punter returner Nsimba Webster.
“We definitely love the Rams,” Katrina said.
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