What’s remarkable about Cooper's hockey journey is his academic success while managing the challenges of the AAA hockey schedule. When asked about how he managed hockey and school Cooper said, “The discipline associated with being an elite hockey player directly attributed to my success as a student and teammate - and I had a blast, especially this last season with the Mission.”
As the puck dropped on his senior year, Cooper was accepted as a candidate for the Air Force Academy, which then started the long application process. This included multiple interviews with Academy officers, one of which took place minutes before a game started, and being interviewed by a panel from Congressman Sean Casten's Office. Cooper received a nomination to the Academy from the Congressman and the last steps were medical clearance, fitness testing, and finally being accepted.
In addition to applying to the Academy, Cooper traveled around the country playing hockey where scouts began to take notice of his game. He was recruited by Junior A hockey teams in Canada and the NCDC. Cooper tendered with the Wilkes Barre Knights and set his sights on focusing on junior hockey, without the responsibility of school.
In April he received the incredible news he was accepted into the Air Force Academy. Cooper was faced with the decision to either go play junior hockey or accept his appointment with the Academy, an education valued at over $400,000. There is no option to defer your appointment, a cadet loses their spot if they chose not to accept the appointment.
Cooper had been on the radar of the Academy’s hockey staff, so there was the option to play junior hockey and hope he would get committed to the Academy through their athletic channels, but there was no guarantee. It was a tough decision but Cooper accepted his appointment to the Academy to serve his country.
The good news is his dream of playing hockey for the Air Force is still alive. The Academy’s hockey staff will pull Cooper out of basic training this summer so he can train with the D1 team, evaluate his game, and he could potentially earn a roster spot as a practice player. He would be the youngest player on the roster with the oldest being 25 years old.
Cooper graduated with 4 academic honors, High Honors, Illinois State Scholar, Illinois State Spanish Scholar, and National Honors Society.