Simultaneously doubling as a high school defensive lineman for one of the best high school football teams that’s ever been assembled in Southeastern Ohio and as a crew member for a race team that collected five top-10s in six races at Portsmouth Raceway Park is obviously the work of a person who has a lot of skill — and a lot of mental toughness.
As a whole, Wheelersburg senior standout Jeremy Cooper may not being participating in the most glamorous positions or have the biggest spotlight shone on him. However, Cooper has shown on multiple occasions that he doesn’t care about the glamour. He cares about simply getting the job done.
However, there is one question that looms large: how has the senior managed to get the job done in both fields?
“You just have to figure out how to balance it effectively,” Cooper said. “Sometimes, there’s racing on Friday nights, but obviously, football is being played on the same day. It’s one of those things where, at this point in time, football comes first, and then, I can focus on racing after that.”
Through football and racing, Cooper has learned many skills that will help the youngster as he beings to carve out his own path in the game of life. However, the 5-8, 185-pounder says that both sports have, more than anything, helped him recognize the need to be a team player in all aspects.
“The same thing applies in both sports,” Cooper said. “Having a driver in a car is one thing, but you have to have a crew that will work well with you, and a driver that will work well with a crew, to make a car better. On the football field, you can have 11 guys out there, and they can all be talented, but if you aren’t working together as a team or making sure that each individual is doing their assignment properly, then it won’t matter how talented you are as an individual. I’ve also found racing and football to be more of a family-oriented thing in both aspects.”
Like Cooper says, both sports do offer vast amounts of similarities. Just showing up on the sidelines on Friday nights before football games, or in the pits on Saturdays before races, won’t cut it if one is trying to ace the ultimate test. So Cooper, like his 93 additional Wheelersburg teammates, are watching film and are putting in the necessary reps to succeed on the football field, which goes hand-in-hand with the many hours that Cooper puts in at the shop to perfect the car for his brother, Justin.
And in both cases, just watching film and putting in repetitions in practice, or testing a race car and putting in those long hours at the shop, may not be enough if the mental preparation isn’t there.
“It’s tough,” Cooper said. “You’ve got to be really disciplined on the football field, and know what you’re doing, week in and week out. It’s really the same as racing. In it, you don’t know what to expect. Until you get on the field, you don’t really know what the person across from you is going to be doing, or what the whole team, in general, is going to be doing. As for the track, it’s always different every week, so it’s hard to know what to expect when you show up. You’ve just got to be ready for anything.”
On the track, Jeremy proved to be a successful shop hand throughout the 2017 season at Portsmouth Raceway Park, as Justin collected two top-fives and five top-tens in six races in the modified division. But ever the team player, Jeremy, however, credits Justin for executing on the track.
“I just help set up the car throughout the week,” Cooper said. “I’ll get tires at the track, and stuff like that. This is only Justin’s second year behind the wheel of a modified,” Cooper said. “He’s being doing a good job. We’ve all been figuring out things as a team in order to try to pick up a win.”
As far as the football field is concerned, Jeremy has continued to play a vital role while starring all across the defensive line. Despite going up against linemen that best Cooper by at least six inches and 80 pounds in measurables, the 5-8, 185-pound nose guard/defensive end has won the majority of his one-on-one battles.
Through the first six games of the 2017 campaign, Cooper had accumulated a dozen tackles — including seven solo stops — and was one of 10 players to record a sack for the 6-0 Pirates, who were the Ohio AP Division V Football Poll’s No. 2-ranked team as of Oct. 2. Jeremy also collected three quarterback hurries to boot to place the gritty athlete in second place in that category.
“We’ve got amazing coaches,” Cooper said of the team’s success. “It’s not only (Rob Woodward, Wheelersburg head coach), but the entire staff, both on the offensive and defensive side of the football. It’s a great experience.”
But as good as he has been in both football and racing, it’s clear that both sports have given something to Jeremy Cooper that is more valuable than wins on the football field or checkered flags in the sport of racing.
“Racing and football have taught me how to work well with people and how to get along with others,” Cooper said. “It’s not only taught me how to balance all tasks in life effectively, but how to work well together with others as a part of a team.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7