Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper acknowledged that last season’s difficulties took a toll on him mentally.
Nagging injuries, including turf toe, slowed down the momentum Cooper had built during his 1,000-yard freshman season. Even though he finished his sophomore season with 45 receptions for 736 yards, he was disappointed because he expected to be a bigger contributor, and that disappointed affected his attitude.
"(It took) people talking to me, coaches talking to me, and me realizing that having a negative attitude will make anything worse," Cooper told NFL.com. "It won't make anything better. ... All of them (injuries) were pretty nagging. I just felt like I couldn't be the best player I could be. But I had to realize injuries are part of football, and you have to give 100 percent of what you have when you are hurt."
During SEC media days, Cooper arrived as more mature player. Instead of talking about individual goals, he stressed team goals and the importance of working the new quarterbacks and learning the system of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s.
And Kiffin has been impressed by Cooper’s work ethic and dedication to the team.
“Watching Amari, he does not say very much, he just goes to work every day,” Kiffin said earlier this week. “We would have workouts when I first got here and Amari would sometimes workout two hours before the workout started, which I thought it was a really hard workout, we were doing in the fourth-quarter program here. And he’d work out two hours before that. What you realize with Amari is that there really isn’t any off-field stuff. Amari is completely dedicated to being the best football player that he can and completely focused.”
Cooper has gained 26 pounds since arriving at Alabama in 2012 — moving from 183 pounds to 209 — and his goals have gone from wanting to be a 1,000-yard receiver to helping the Tide get back on top of the college football heap.
All the while perhaps making himself one of the top draft picks in 2015 in the process.
"I think I've grown more as a player and more as a person," Cooper told al.com. "Definitely, I've gotten smarter as a person; and I've gotten better as a player mentally and physically. I've gotten stronger, bigger, faster, and I know the game more now than I did as a freshman or a sophomore."
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