Jim Cooper Jr., the latest in a series of outstanding Mainland Regional High School football place-kickers, verbally committed to Temple University on Saturday. Cooper, who will be a Mainland senior in the fall, will receive a full athletic scholarship.
One of those former Mustangs kickers was Jim Cooper Sr., who went on to kick for Temple in the 1980s. The elder Cooper has coached his son in the art of kicking and punting for years. Cooper Sr. has been a Mainland kicking coach since 1995.
"When I visited Temple (two weeks ago), I fell in love with it," the son said. "I think it's really neat that my dad kicked there, but that was not really a determining factor in my decision."
Temple will move from the Mid-American Conference to the Big East this season. The Owls finished 9-4 last season under coach Steve Addazio.
"My goal since the second grade was to play Division I football," Cooper Jr. said. "I've devoted my whole life to it. I was hoping to commit before the summer, and everything (regarding Temple) just fell into place."
Cooper's decision will not become binding until he signs a national letter of intent on Feb. 6, 2013.
Cooper has been Mainland's place-kicker since his freshman year, and he's the punter too. His career-longest field goal is 45 yards, 2 yards shorter than his Jim Cooper Sr.'s school record.
"I hope to break that this year," said Cooper.
Cooper was a Press first-team All-Star the past two seasons, after being a second-team All-Star as a freshman. He kicked eight field goals last fall, including a longest of 43 yards. He also booted 13 touchbacks on kickoffs. Cooper has 24 career field goals, six fewer than the South Jersey record of 30 set by Lenape's Rob Juliano in 1990. As a sophomore, he kicked nine field goals to tie the Cape-Atlantic League record.
"There's not any more deserving kid, and there's not any more deserving dad," Mainland coach Bob Coffey said. "It's a great Father's Day present for Jim Sr. Jim (Jr.) has been a blessing for us, and he has made the difference in numerous games. He's a clutch performer. It's a nice thing for us to have a great kicker, and he's also a great kid."
Jim Cooper Sr. has trained several Mainland kickers, including Jason Feinberg and Ken Dudnick, who went on to become kickers at the University of Pennsylvania and Boston College, respectively.
"Temple isn't much like when I was there," Cooper Sr. said. "The facilities now are over the top, first-class. Jim's looking forward to playing at a major college, and he's happy that it will be close to home.
"I started Jim when he was 8 or 9 years old. He asked me to teach him how to kick. He took to it and enjoyed it, and he did everything I asked him to do. He's the one who worked and sacrificed."
Jim Cooper Jr. was leaning towards Temple but also wanted to get the approval of his mother, Marie.
"I talked to my mom about it and when we saw (Temple), she loved it," Cooper said.
Marie Cooper helped to inspire Jim Sr. to go to Temple instead of North Carolina State.
"My wonderful wife and I met when I was a kicker at Mainland," Cooper Sr. said. "I was a senior and she was a junior, and one of the reasons I chose Temple was because I wanted to be near the girl I wanted to marry. This is a perfect setting, like history repeating itself. For the record, I had no say whatsoever in my son going to Temple."
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