I caught up with Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl with Panini America, the exclusive trading card partner of the NFL. We talked about the ups and downs of his rookie season with the Rams, how he prepares for a season, and his words of encouragement for anyone who is told that they cannot achieve their goals.
I understand you are signing your rookie trading cards with Panini America today, tell me how that’s going.
It’s been good, It’s not the most exciting thing, but you get to see new people and see some of the guys, reconnecting with them after their season, stuff like that. So it’s nice to catch up with some of the guys.
Outside of Dutch Brothers Coffee, is there anything you miss about the Spokane area, and how has the adjustment of living in Los Angeles been for you and your family?
Oh man, you know, my wife and I love Spokane and the coffee was huge, but there is a ton of really good food out there, places that we have really enjoyed. I’m hoping we can get back there at some point this offseason and am looking forward to being able to revisit some of those old places.
You played for an outstanding coach in Beau Baldwin at EWU and now for another in Sean McVay with the Rams. Do you see any similarities between the two of them?
There are. I think one of the things that kind of stood out is their ability to communicate a message across to you. They understand the game. The intelligence that they have for the game is unreal. So, being able to have a coach like that, who understands the game so well, and able to communicate what their plan is and what they expect from you is something that stands out to me. You know, making this game fun. This game is meant to be fun and we’re meant to enjoy it and they do a great job of keeping that perspective.
You’ve had a bit of a whirlwind year. After finishing your college career, working through the NFL Draft process, a 16-game season, playoffs, etc. Now that you have had a moment to relax, what was your rookie year like?
You know, it went well. There have been highs and lows, just like the game of football. There are some things that I definitely wish I would have done better, and some things I’m definitely going to learn from. I’m really excited to be able to take this offseason and be able to improve and just move forward on it. Some people want to ask me if I’ve exceeded expectations, or if I’m surprised by how this year went, but in my mind, no matter how this season would have gone, I would have told you that there’s a lot to improve on, because there always is. Nobody has ever played a perfect season and you never go into an offseason thinking that you’re complete. I’m never going to think that way, and like I said, I’m just excited to get back to work.
Outside of the birth of your first child, what do you have planned for 2018? Do you actually set personal goals for yourself, or do you just concentrate on improving certain parts of your game?
Yeah, I will. As I’ve been able to reflect on the year, I’ll set down some measurable goals. Those will be things that I want to focus on and you know, I’ll probably set those here in the next week or two. A lot of the stuff I do isn’t necessarily statistical, but more about myself as a football player. What I can do, things I can control. I’m a big goal setter and I love doing that, to be able to focus in and have a clear goal going into the season, so I’m looking forward to setting that stuff up.
After struggling in the Vikings game, what does it say about your mental toughness, and more importantly the support of your teammates and coaches to be able to bounce back the following week against the Saints and have probably the best game of your career?
Yeah, I think I said it earlier, there’s going to be ups and downs in football and obviously the Vikings game, and there’s a few other games too. Just about every game there are going to be plays that you wish you could have back. The Vikings, there were definitely a few plays that stood out, but to be able to have coaches and teammates come alongside you and encourage you, lift you up, pull you forward and say that we’re going to need you next week. That’s the NFL. There is no time to linger on anything that’s happened in the past. You have to move forward because you have another game in seven days against a team that’s ready to go. If you’re not prepared and still stuck on the week before … You’re going to get your butt kicked, so. Plain and simple, you have to move forward. You have to learn, you have to push and you have to rectify your mistakes and be ready to respond that next week.
I have some fan questions from Twitter that I thought would be fun to ask. This one is from Dave. Miner’s Drive-in Restaurant or Lariat Bar-B-Q in Yakima, Washington?
I’m going to go with Miners. That’s not my go to burger place, but you know, Miners is the place to be. Everyone loves it there. It’s a great atmosphere, and some great burgers. If you really want to know the best burger place, in my opinion, is Majors. It’s the hidden gem of Yakima.
From Tevin: What have you learned from some of the vets in your WR room that helped your transition to the pro game?
Yeah, just being able to play under some guys on our team. Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin, some guys who have played a lot of football, a lot of snaps. They’ve been very good sharing their knowledge of the game. They have so much, and they don’t hold anything back. It’s a real blessing to have guys like that, who want you to be your best. I’m very excited to be able to continue to learn under those guys.
Daniel wants to know if you had a welcome to the NFL moment?
For a lot of people, that’s like a big hit or something. For me, the welcome to the NFL moment was the time you get to work on football. This isn’t a bad welcome to the NFL moment, this is one where I’m excited. I’m glad this is how much time I get to spend watching film, being on the field, getting to play the game that I love. It’s like fall camp in college, except I get to do it every day for 22 weeks. It’s been so much fun. There was one hit I guess, in Seattle. I caught a little ball over the middle and got sandwiched by Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright. That was a pretty solid shot.
From Sean: Do you have any advice for people like yourself who were passed over by big college programs who have dreams of playing in the NFL?
My thing has always been about your self belief. You have to believe in what your goals are and more importantly than your belief is that you have to model it. If you took a snapshot of your life right now, does that snapshot reflect the goals that you have for the future? In that snapshot, do you see someone who is striving to pursue, even if it’s not football, even if it’s a career, or somewhere in business, or an education or whatever it is. Do your actions of today reflect your goals of tomorrow? And then have that belief in yourself that you can go out there and achieve that. I had people, coaches, tell me to my face that I couldn’t achieve the things I wanted to. That’s hard to hear from coaches that you have a lot of respect for, but for me, it never changed my mindset. I set goals that were laughable. People would laugh if I told you what my goals were when I was back in high school, but I set out to achieve those things, and even though I didn’t go to a college that I had wanted to … I wanted to go to USC, the Cal’s, I wanted to go to Alabama. I wanted to get the opportunity, but I made the most of where I went. I was very blessed to be around the people I was and make the friendships that I did. But now I’m here, and it doesn’t matter how you get here, just to be able to play football at this level. I’m extremely thankful for that.
So thanks to Cooper for the time. It was a pleasure!