BEREA — Four years ago, quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Josh Cooper were teammates on the scout team at Oklahoma State University.
Suffice to say, they’ve come a long way from sharing a practice field in Stillwater to sharing a locker room with the Browns.
“It’s unbelievable when you think about it,” Cooper said. “That’s something you don’t see too often, two guys going from the same scout team to the pros. I’m very excited about this opportunity, and obviously very happy to be here with Brandon.”
While Weeden has started all five of Cleveland’s games this season, Cooper will make his NFL debut Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The undrafted free agent previously defied the odds by surviving until the Browns’ final cutdown on Aug. 31, then did it again Friday when he was promoted from their practice squad to the 53-man active roster.
Cooper’s addition gives Cleveland four healthy wide receivers, joining second-year pro Greg Little, fellow rookie Josh Gordon, and special teams ace Joshua Cribbs.
“Josh (Cooper) had a good week of practice and he’s been a guy that’s steadily improved since he’s been here,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “I think we saw Brandon and him connect quite a bit when they were both learning the system in the preseason and in the offseason practices. Hopefully, that connection is still there.”
No worries, according to Cooper, who lived with the quarterback and his wife Melanie during the summer. He said Weeden’s notorious fastball-like passes initially take some getting used to, but the thrill of catching them is worth it.
“We didn’t work together at all in training camp because he was with the ones (first team), but we definitely got reacquainted this week,” said Cooper, who spent part of the week working with Cleveland’s starting offense.
“It took a good month for me to get used to his throws back at Oklahoma State, but it’s a good ball. It does come at you fast, then it seems to get faster at a certain point, but Brandon knows where to put it where his receivers want it.”
Shurmur, in turn, wants the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Cooper to play the slot and go over the middle, much like Jordan Norwood has done for the past year and a half. Norwood was placed on short-term injured reserve to clear a roster spot for Cooper.
Some NFL scouts have compared Cooper’s muscular, but short frame and skill set to Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker.
Shurmur, however, believes Cooper and the even smaller Norwood are a better comparison.
“They’re very similar and I think they kind of set themselves apart as slot receivers,” the coach said. “They’re quick and they find as way to wiggle free. I really do think they’re similar in more ways than just height.”
Cooper admitted being humbled and flattered by the Welker comparisons, but said he wants to make a name for himself in the NFL. The 23-year-old added that he wants to reward Weeden for helping him on his pigskin journey, ideally with a touchdown reception against the Bengals.
“I’m a possession guy and hopefully I can make those tough catches over the middle,” the 23-year-old Oklahoma native said. “I know how to play with Brandon and I know he can depend on me to be in the right spot.”
Cooper broke into a smile, then playfully kidded his elder friend.
“Me being out there on Sunday would be the best birthday present for him,” he said, laughing. “I can’t believe he’s going to be 29 the day of the game. That’s pretty old compared to the rest of us.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.