When the Redskins chose Chris Cooley in the third round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, they landed a player who admitted he has seen just one NFL game in his life: a San Diego at Denver contest when he was 10 years old.
A great deal of NFL action may be ahead for the 6-3, 265-pound Utah State tight end, however. Taken as the 81st player overall, Cooley will be competing at a key spot in the Redskins' offense.
"It's a big challenge," Cooley said of being drafted by the Redskins. "I visited the facility at Redskins Park about three weeks ago and met the coaches. After I met coach [Joe] Gibbs and his staff, I was hoping the Redskins would draft me."
Added Cooley: "I'm just totally excited about this opportunity. I'm really thrilled."
A native of Powell, Wyoming, Cooley went to high school in Logan, Utah. He began his college career at Utah State by playing defensive end.
Cooley played in 10 games in the 2001 season, seeing action at tight end, fullback and H-back for the Aggies. The H-back position, he says, is perhaps his favorite.
"It takes a lot of mental preparation to play the 'H,'" Cooley added. "There are so many things you have to be aware of, so many skills you have to depend upon."
In order to put themselves in position to select Cooley, the Redskins had to make a trade. Washington and New Orleans swapped fifth-round picks in the 2004 NFL Draft, with the Redskins dropping back to 151st overall, the Saints getting the 139th. In addition, Washington sent a second-round draft pick in the 2005 NFL Draft to the Saints.
"Chris was a really good fit for us," said Gibbs. "He's an exceptionally bright young man, and we know he'll come in and be ready to compete."
Gibbs said Cooley has qualities that make him unique when compared to some of the H-backs he coached during his first tenure with the team.
"He's not exactly like Clint Didier--he was more of a speed guy who was an outside receiver," Gibbs said. "Terry Orr and Doc Walker--I think he kind of fits into that group. I don't know if he reminds me exactly of somebody we had, but certainly he fits the role with what we want."
Cooley led the nation's tight ends in receptions and receiving yards in 2003, the year he was a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection. He was a finalist for the Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end and named for former Baltimore Colt John Mackey.
For the 2003 season, Cooley recorded 62 receptions for 732 yards and six touchdowns. He had a strong game versus Nebraska, with six catches for 92 yards and a 41-yard score.
Known more for his receiving skills, Cooley, a high school All-America wrestler, is also regarded as an excellent blocker and special teams player.
"When I came to visit the Redskins, I was really impressed with the coaching staff, and with the Washington, D.C., area," Cooley said. "I can't wait to get going with this new challenge."