Cooper wants 2,000 yards

Josh Rouse

During the 2008 football season, freshman running back Justin Cooper led all Ichabod rushers in yardage with 539 in only eight games. This year, he plans to nearly quadruple that output.

Cooper laid down the blueprint Saturday, Aug. 8 at Washburn’s media day, describing the goals he had set for himself in the upcoming season.

“Try to get over 2,000 yards rushing,” said Cooper. “Try to be a better team player. Try to win and finish games stronger than I did last year. Try to stay healthy.”

Before dismissing the notion that a Washburn running back can gain 2,000 rushing yards in a single season, consider the following fact: Cooper led the team in rushing even though he started only three games. In addition, four out of the five starters on the offensive line are returning and six freshman are also available this year on the offensive line.

However, a Washburn player has never rushed for that sort of yardage. The closest an Ichabod has come to the 2K season mark was in 2005, when Trent Hearn rushed for 1,203 yards, a mere 797 yards short. Still, four of the top five season marks were set during the Craig Schurig coaching era (Hearn in 2005 and 2003, Ra’Shawn Mosley in 2004 and 2007), so it’s not like making history is anything new for this staff.

“We feel strong at running back,” said Schurig.

Besides amassing the nearly unheard of rushing mark and contributing in any way he can to help Washburn win, Cooper hopes to make a splash on the national scene as a force to be reckoned with.

“I want to be an All-American,” said Cooper. “That’s my goal this year.”

While these plans may sound a bit lofty, Cooper has worked during the offseason to make them a reality, improving his speed, strength and conditioning in an attempt to become a better all-around running back.

“I’ve been working on blocking,” said Cooper. “I really want to work on finishing my runs and keeping my knees higher, getting lower to the ground when I make contact.”

Despite all the individual goals, Cooper said that one underlying goal outweighs everything else: to become a champion.

“That’s a big goal we have, to win the MIAA Championship,” said Cooper. “That’s our main goal, so we’re going to try to work on that.”