COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Not many players get a chance to end their college career going out as a national champion. but Gahanna native and Lincoln graduate Jonathon Cooper has a chance to do just that when the Buckeyes play Alabama on Monday.
“It’s special being from here, growing up being an Ohio State fan,” Cooper said.
As a kid from Gahanna, Cooper grew up a Buckeyes’ fan. Now, the OSU captain is a fan favorite especially to people from Gahanna like former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle John Hughes.
“It means everything man,” Hughes said. “It’s a hometown Gahanna kid making a dream come true. It’s a perfect mix. I love it.”
Lincoln football coach Bruce Ward took over the program in 2013 when Cooper was a sophomore.
“We’re excited at Gahanna,” Ward said. “He’s a great representation of our program, someone for our kids to look up to.”
Ward said he knew Cooper was special form the moment he first saw him play.
“He wasn’t the biggest and he’s still not the biggest,” Ward said. “But he just has something different. He’s a motivated young man, his work ethic is tremendous, he’s just one of those guys that you want to follow and that was noticeable right away.”
2019 was shaping up to be Cooper’s breakout season at Ohio State. But a high ankle sprain forced him to miss all but four games, so he decided to come back for a fifth and final year.
“You know I came back for my teammates and I wanted to show the world the type of football player that I am,” Cooper said. “You know I really came back to make it this far to win a national championship.”
Once the title game is over, Cooper will turn his attention to the NFL, just like Hughes did when he was drafted by the Browns in the third round in 2012.
“I think really with Coop it’s his passion to absorb football knowledge,” Hughes said. “You know he’s one of those guys that can always learn more and he knows he’s only as good as his work ethic, so he takes that knowledge and applies it and that’s really hard for a lot of guys to do sometimes.”
OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson has coached guys like the Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa, Sam Hubbard and Chase Young. He says Cooper has what it takes to play at the next level.
“Our whole entire team looks up to Jonathon Cooper,” Johnson said. “He is what you’re looking for in a player. Jonathon Cooper has some special things ahead of him.”