MOBILE, Ala. — After being paraded across the stage at the annual Senior Bowl weigh-in/meat market on Tuesday morning, Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp got dressed and walked out the back entrance to prepare for the week of practices.
He proudly wore a black T-shirt with Carson Wentz’s “AO1” logo on the front.
While Kupp and Wentz have never met, the two share agents, and when Kupp noticed the shirt in the Rep1 office in Irvine, California, he knew he wanted one.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to meet Carson yet,” Kupp said on Tuesday afternoon, after the North squad wrapped up practice. “I’m really excited to. Hopefully, he’ll come back and we’ll get to train a little bit this offseason. But I just like what he stands for. He’s a guy that’s very vocal about his faith, as am I.
“We both understand that when we step on this field, there’s a purpose to what we’re playing for. We believe that we were created for this game, God made us from the very beginning to play this game. That’s why there’s so much joy when we come out here. You can see it when he plays, too. When he steps on the field, you can just feel his pleasure when you’re out there. Just being able to kind of support what he’s doing with ‘Audience of One,’ making sure that people know I’m a part of that. I want people to know I’m a part of that. I want people to know I’m playing because God created me to do it.”
News eventually made its way back to Wentz that Kupp was spotted in one of his shirts and the Eagles’ quarterback “got a kick out of it.”
There’s no plan in place yet for the two to work together this offseason, but Kupp would like to make it happen. He’d like to catch passes from Wentz, but even more, he wants to pick his brain.
“It’s not just throwing and running routes, but understanding the game and I know he’s one of those guys that wants to understand every aspect of that and that’s a reason why I want to soak it up,” Kupp said. “I want to know protections, I want to know what running backs are doing, I want to know what defenses are doing, I want to know what the purpose is. Why are we calling a screen on 2nd-and-6. And I know he’s one of those guys that likes to do that. Just having that opportunity to be around him a little bit.”
Just because Kupp likes Wentz’s slogan, it doesn’t mean the Eagles will draft him, though Kupp already has met with a couple members from the organization. And the Eagles do just happen to be in the market for an upgrade at the receiver position; Kupp is considered to be one of the better ones available, although not likely one of the top targets.
Like Wentz, Kupp dominated at the FCS level. His numbers at Eastern Washington were outrageous.
In each of his four college seasons, Kupp caught at least 90 passes for at least 1,400 yards. His best season came as a senior, when he caught 117 passes for 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns. In four years of college, he caught 428 passes for 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns.
Today, Kupp isn’t a very physically imposing receiver. On Tuesday, he measured in at a shade over 6-foot and 198 pounds. But that's huge compared to when he first started. As a freshman in high school, he was 5-foot-4 and wore jeans to the weigh-in to hide the two ankle weights below. He came in at 119 pounds.
Kupp likes to joke that the size in his family was lost somewhere between his grandfather, Jake, who played offensive guard in the NFL, to his father, Craig, who played quarterback in the league.
Being a potential third-generation NFL player has had its perks, though. Kupp's grandfather played with Archie Manning in New Orleans and remained in touch. That allowed Kupp to attend the Manning Passing Academy.
On Tuesday, Kupp recalled one of the first times he ever talked to Peyton Manning. The future Hall of Famer gave Kupp detailed instructions about the route he wanted him to run and said he would hit him at 44 yards. Later on, watching the film, Kupp said Manning indeed dropped it in his arms at 44 yards. And he caught it. “You don’t drop those ones,” he said.
Since then, Kupp has caught a lot of passes. Enough to make him a high-round draft pick come April. He still has more to work on, including the 40-yard dash. He’s aiming for a 4.4 and to run it at the combine so he can get back to focusing on becoming a better football player.
There are skeptics, of course, because Kupp’s success came at the FCS level, but he said his production came from hard work, being around great players and having great coaches. He expects more of that in the NFL, so he doesn’t feel the need to prove that he belongs among the players from the major conferences.
“I don’t play with any weights,” Kupp said. “I’m going to be me. I’m not thinking about anything else when I come out here. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone. I’m just going to be myself. I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m not thinking about how I’m going to try to earn this guy’s respect or anything like that. I’m just going to go out there, be me. In this game, respect comes when you’re playing your game and you do your thing. I’m just going to be me, play my game and the rest of that stuff will come.”