Cooper’s challenge

 Posted by at 12:00 pm
Jul 292010

July 29 Camden Courier-Post

 He turned down World Series rings for national championships. He traded lazy fly balls for tightly thrown spirals.

The Phillies once made Riley Cooper an offer they didn’t think he’d refuse. They’d make him their third first-round pick, shower him with millions and promote him to the majors as the franchise headed toward unprecedented success.

Better yet, they were based each spring in Cooper’s hometown of Clearwater, Fla. At least one month every season he’d spend in his backyard.

Who could say no?

“(I gave it) serious thought,” Cooper, the Eagles’ rookie receiver, said Wednesday after morning training camp practice. “I love baseball. They were offering me a lot of money. They had the 13th pick in the first round. I definitely thought about it.”

Ultimately, he declined. He passed on the small fortune for the free ride at the University of Florida.

Sold on the potential in Gainesville — sold-out stadiums, Southeastern Conference rivalries and the allure of Tim Tebow — the decision came quite easily.

“I wasn’t ready to start a career at 18,” he said. “I wanted to go to school.”

Four years later, the city is the same but the uniform and paychecks are vastly different.

Cooper, after a breakthrough senior year as Tebow’s favorite target, turned down another baseball contract — the Texas Rangers made him their 25th-round pick last year — and landed in the Eagles’ lap in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft.

They didn’t think he’d be there. “So we said, “Hey, listen, he’s the best guy on the board, so let’s take him,’ ” coach Andy Reid said.”

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