OGDEN — As Weber State prepares to host Kennesaw State in the second round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday, Devon Cooley is becoming a threat on offense that the Wildcats have needed to emerge.
Cooley, a Los Angeles native that has been playing football since he was four years old, leads the receiving core for the Wildcats with four touchdowns and 577 yards on the season. He’s averaging 11.7 yards a catch.
When wide receivers coach Jared Ursua was hired on at Weber State last January, he didn’t know how his new guys would be, but Cooley is someone he’s quickly become fond of. From his comments that make his coach think, to his always wanting to learn and ask questions, Ursua is thankful Cooley who he describes as a “light of sunshine” is willing to answer the call when asked to step up.
“Devon is an absolute dog,” Ursua said. “He loves every aspect of it. Whether we’re training, in the weight room, whether we’re catching balls after practice, whether we’re right in the middle of practice, he’s invested. He loves the game and everything about it. When we’re sitting in a meeting room, he’s the first one to bark out a question and the first one to point out what’s going on with the coverage. He’s all about ball.”
The investment that Cooley has made to the Weber State program and improving himself is paying dividends for the wide receiver and the Wildcats offense. In the win against Idaho State, when the Wildcats claimed their third straight Big-Sky title, Cooley had two touchdowns. One of those came right before the end of the second quarter when Jake Constantine found Cooley open on a 3-and-3 situation. Cooley, instead of stepping out of bounds, was aware that the coverage had hesitated and tiptoed up the sidelines for a 25-yard touchdown.
“He’s relentless,” Ursua said. “ He has the mindset of he’s going to do it until he’s got it down perfect. He’s the one who will run 10 reps in practice and then he’ll get another five more after. Then he’ll grab me and talk about another thing on film. He just has to get it right. That is the reason why I think he’s had so much success.”
The success that Cooley is finding isn’t something that has always been easy, but it has made him want to work that much harder and prove himself. Cooley had offers from programs in the Pac-12 and at one point was committed to UCLA. With a coaching change at UCLA, plans also changed for Cooley.
Cooley relied on the support of his family and made the decision to play football in a different state.
“No matter what, we’re always there for each other,” Cooley said about his family. “Whenever one of my siblings is feeling down, my dad is always there, or is someone is having a problem my mother is there to make sure that they’re straight. Overall, it’s just lovingness is how I can describe it.”
That same “lovingness” Cooley describes is who he is with his teammates, according to his coach.
“Over the last three months, I’ve seen his personality grow not just with me, but with his teammates,” Usura said. “Devon is the type of person when someone else scores he’s the first one there. He’s got one of those radiant like feels about him. He’s not a ‘me-me’ guy.”
Cooley has found success from putting in the extra work with quarterbacks before and after practice. Even as a sophomore, he’s helping build a culture where people want to work and be better both on and off the field. It’s helped his coach really enjoy his group of guys.
“What it allows us to do is really enjoy the process,” Usura said. “It’s a grind, it can be hard. We’re out there, it’s twenty-five degrees, it’s snowing, it’s pouring rain. We deal with a lot of difficulty, but when you have a guy like that who is just a light of sunshine, it’s awesome. It makes it a lot better and it makes the room a lot better.”
Carra McManamon is a native of Washington state and is attending the University of Utah. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @curramac22