GLENDALE — The ‘Big Man on Campus’ finally arrived at University of Phoenix Stadium Monday.
Guard Jonathan Cooper was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but before Monday he was one of just three top-10 picks that had yet to sign and get into camp.
Rookies are normally under a microscope anyway but even more so when they arrive a few days late due to contract negotiations.
“It was actually very difficult, anticipation, it kills me. Just you know, start questioning will I be able to get right back in and plug back in? It’s going to be tough,” said Cooper after his first full day of training camp with the team. “Am I conditioning myself and pushing myself enough while I’m here at home? What are the rest of the guys thinking about me?
“All that kind of stuff was really mentally taxing, but I came back and I have been surprising myself and hopefully surprising some others.”
Cooper’s four-year deal is reportedly worth $14.55 million and is fully guaranteed with offset language. That’s a hefty contract for a lineman that has yet to prove himself at the highest level.
Monday, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound lineman was asked if the amount of money he’ll be making has really hit him yet.
“Honestly no, or at least not yet,” said Cooper. “Right now I’m just focused on get your plays down and don’t make mistakes. And once again it comes back to try to prove people right and not let people down so I can’t really focus on the glitz and glamor aspect of it until I show them that I earned this and that I belong here.”
Cooper impressed many with his answers in Monday’s media availability, just like he impressed his coach and teammates by passing the fitness test with all eyes on him.
The 23-year-old’s signing bonus is also reportedly worth just under $9 million. A favorite question of first-round rookies is, “What’s the first thing you’ll spend some of that money on?”
Cooper had a very realistic, down-to-earth answer.
“Probably renting my apartment,” he said. “That’ll be my first purchase. I’ve gotta have somewhere to live.”
Cooper also reiterated on more than one occasion Monday afternoon that he’s here to prove he belongs and knows that there is no shortage of pressure on players in his position.
“Just being drafted that high no matter what position, I feel that you feel immense pressure,” said Cooper. “I know I put a lot of pressure on myself and I want to succeed. And I know there’s a bunch of people dependent on me from the people who drafted me, to my family to my former teammates.”
Cooper said during OTAs that it was important to be present and learn the playbook. He didn’t even know he had the option not to show up for offseason workouts, which is why it surprised some that he was tardy when camp officially got underway last week.
Regardless of what he said during OTAs and putting aside showing up late this week, he said all the right things during his first day on the job.
“I really put a lot of pressure on myself and sometimes it’s more than I need to but I want to succeed. I’m a competitor,” said the former Tar Heel. “I mean I feel like I have to succeed and sometimes you get a little nervous and a little concerned, like will I live up to the hype and all these people are expecting so much.
“I really have to sometimes tone that back and focus on my craft, continue to get better and not allow the negative thoughts to creep in.”