John Cooper just turned 31 and knows his playing days are numbered, but he continues his drive for championships.
Cooper has been playing for titles most of his life, with Marshall University in college and with the Lexington Horsemen in arena football.
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A 6-foot-5 wide receiver with speed and savvy, Cooper grabbed the touchdown pass and two-point conversion that put the Horsemen in the playoffs in their first season of arenafootball2.
Lexington tied Green Bay in the Midwest Division and swept the season series with the Blizzard after a 55-54 overtime victory last week. Quarterback Eddie Eviston was 19-of-20 passing in the second half after the Horsemen trailed by 20 points at the break.
Lexington (9-5) will try to get closer to securing a first-round home game when Iowa (5-9) visits Rupp Arena at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Green Bay (10-5) defeated Louisville (7-8) 33-20 on Friday.
“The win last week solidified our place in af2,” said Cooper, the oldest Horseman. “We've earned the respect of our opponents, but now we're focused on Iowa.”
Cooper has enjoyed the Horsemen's first season in af2 after several successful years in indoor football.
“For me, it's a great opportunity to show my skills to a higher level (Arena Football League),” he said. “Recognition has been the incentive.”
Cooper and several other Horsemen most likely will receive attention from AFL teams after the playoffs. A new rule prevents the AFL from bringing up players from af2 during the season.
“If our franchise quarterback (Eviston) went up to play two or three weeks as a backup, we'd lose our franchise guy,” Cooper said. “I think a lot of quality guys will get a shot.”
Count Cooper among them.
“I think I'm as good or better than the fifth or sixth receiver on any NFL team,” he said. “I'd love to have the opportunity to move up. A team would get a great run blocker and a receiver who could move the chains.”
Horsemen Coach Mike Harmon said AFL coaches get film of every af2 game and evaluate players weekly.
“Players are invited to camps and individual workouts,” Harmon said. “It's all based on production. Versatility is huge, and ‘Coop' can play three or four positions.”
Cooper is a receiver, defensive back and linebacker and plays on special teams.
“ ‘Coop' is very confident in his ability, and he has a great work ethic,” Harmon said. “He's a smart player and gets in position to make plays. Add that to good size and speed (and it) makes a good combination.”
Cooper has improved every year since he joined the Horsemen in 2005, Harmon said.
Cooper played for Lexington rival Ohio Valley in United Indoor Football for two years before joining the Horsemen.
“I've not played on a losing team in my life,” he said, “and I don't expect a losing record. We came into af2 as a successful team, and we've continued that success.”
Receiver Chad Spencer will miss the Iowa game with a thigh bruise. ... Brian Crum, Michael Madrazo and Jarrod Rouanzoin have rejoined the Horsemen this week.
■ Iowa's record is deceiving, according to Harmon. “They've been in every game and had some bad breaks. They could be 9-5, not 5-9.”