Jim Cooper Jr. stood in gym class at Mainland Regional High School when he got the text from his dad, Jim Cooper Sr., on Monday morning.
The text read, "Coop, you were selected for the game. Call me."
"I read the text and had to take a few steps back and absorb everything that was going on," Cooper said. "It was so surreal."
Cooper, a senior and one of the state's top scholastic place-kickers, learned Monday that he has been selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in the Alamodome in San Antonio on Jan. 5. The game features 90 of the nation's top high school senior football players.
"I think kids who plays high school football one of their dreams would be to play in an All-American game," Cooper said. "I feel fortunate and blessed. It's a great feeling to know the support of everyone really paid off."
Cooper talks about the support of everyone because kicking is his family's passion.
Jim Cooper Sr. is the Mainland kicking coach. The elder Cooper graduated from Mainland and kicked for Temple University from 1984-87. The younger Cooper has verbally committed to attend Temple on a scholarship.
The family has traveled all over the country so the younger Cooper could participate in combines and kicking competitions.
Cooper's older sisters - Heather, 21, and Christine, 23 - and mother Marie even fielded kicks for him.
"We've had to make a lot of sacrifices," Jim Cooper Sr. said. "There were times I couldn't drive him to a clinic (so) my daughters drove him. It has been a family affair."
Cooper has kicked two field goals this season. His 26 career field goals are four short of the state record that Lenape's Rob Juliano set in 1990 and Gil Gutierrez of St. John Vianney matched in 1998.
Cooper is the fifth local player to be selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl since the game began in 2000. Cooper joins Anthony Sarao of Holy Spirit (2011), Tyler Stockton of Linwood and The Hun School in Princeton (2009), Myron Rolle of Galloway Township and The Hun School (2006) and Dwayne Hendricks of Millville (2004).
Cooper and his dad attended the game two years ago.
"It was a first-class experience," the older Cooper said.
The younger Cooper can't wait to meet players from around the country.
"A lot of kickers would do anything to get this opportunity," he said. "I'm welcoming the opportunity for a field-goal attempt. I've devoted my life to this since the third grade and it's really paying off."
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