For the second year in a row, Jonathon Cooper’s opportunity to play a full senior season has been taken away from him in August.
Last year, Cooper suffered an ankle injury during preseason camp that prompted him to play in just four games and redshirt so he’d have another shot at the standout senior season he had been hoping for in 2020. On Tuesday, another opportunity was snatched away from him again when the Big Ten announced it was shutting down its fall sports due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Cooper could still have a chance to play his senior year if Ohio State is able to play a spring football season. During an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Wednesday, however, Cooper said he hadn’t decided yet whether he’ll be sticking around for that uncertain possibility.
“I wish I could say. I honestly do. I don’t know what I’m going to do right now, at this point in time,” Cooper said. “This is the second time two years in a row that my season has been somewhat taken away from me without my control, and that’s a lot. It sucks. So just trying to figure out what is the best route for me and my family right now. Just trying to listen and get my emotions in check, because once again, this just happened yesterday, and I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I’m not able to play right now.”
The loss of a football season in the #BigTen isn't just about players at @OhioStateFB like Justin Fields. Meet @JonathonCooper7. He's a 5th year senior. Team captain. And doesn't know what his immediate football future holds. pic.twitter.com/JLnZf9yUph— Matt Barrie (@MattBarrie) August 13, 2020
Cooper, the first Ohio State player to do a public interview since Tuesday’s announcement by the Big Ten, said the Buckeyes were informed of the news on Tuesday afternoon by athletic director Gene Smith. Asked about the reaction in the room when they were told they would not play this fall, Cooper said “it was dead silent.”
“I think everybody, including myself, and a lot of the seniors were just shocked,” Cooper said. “We didn’t know how to react. You always knew it was a possibility, you always knew that it was coming, but when you actually hear it and you have to accept it for what it is, it’s different. And it was just completely silent, and I think everybody was kind of shocked.”
Cooper, one of many Ohio State players who took to Twitter in the days leading up to the decision to make his plea for the Buckeyes to have a chance to play this fall, said that while players did have the opportunity to share their thoughts with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and he thought they were listened to, he also thinks players should have been on the call when the decision was made.
“When it came down to the decision-making, I don’t think a single player was in that room, and didn’t have too much of a say. So players like me and across the country didn’t really have any input on the final decision,” Cooper said. “I definitely think players should have a big voice in it, just because it’s our risk, it’s our health and I think it should be up to the players whether we decide whether we want to play. And having someone else decide that for us, decide whether the risk is too great or you’re putting yourself at risk, I feel like we should let the players decide that for themselves. That’s what I genuinely believe.”
If Cooper never plays another snap at Ohio State, losing his chance to play a full senior season would be a devastating outcome for the Gahanna native who grew up dreaming of playing for the Buckeyes. Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Wednesday, though, that players like Cooper are the reason why he’s fighting for the Buckeyes to still get an opportunity to play this year.
“He’s gonna have a bright future no matter what, and he’s an unbelievable young man who’s had an impact on this program,” Day said. “If you can’t get up in the morning and get motivated to get this thing done so that he can play a season here starting in January or hopefully even maybe before then, then you gotta get out of this profession. Because that’s what this thing is all about.”