When his right ankle got rolled in a drill that August day, Jonathon Cooper didn’t think it was a serious injury.
The Ohio State defensive end didn’t even fall on the play.
“I'm limping off, but I'm like, oh yeah, I'm good. I'm good,” he said.
Soon enough, though, he realized the severity of the injury.
“I go see the doctor,” Cooper said, “and he said, ‘You're going to need surgery.’ It was a shocking moment for me.”Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
It was a high ankle sprain, and the senior from Gahanna would miss the Buckeyes’ first four games before returning for last week’s Nebraska game. Cooper started at defensive end and had one solo tackle. He also contributed on Jeff Okudah’s second interception when he forced Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez to alter his delivery, causing an overthrow.
“It was emotional,” Cooper said of his return. “I had to keep my emotions in check and realize there’s a game to play against a very good opponent. So I was very focused on that the entire time. But it was very emotional for me, and I think it hit me after the game.”
Cooper talked before the season about making his final season with the Buckeyes special. He’d had a solid career, but not quite to the level he’d wanted. He was named one of the team’s seven captains, and wanted to lead on and off the field.
Then, in a flash, he was sidelined. Doctors performed a TightRope surgery in which a cord is used to anchor the tibia and fibula. Typically, rehab is about six weeks.
Cooper is upbeat by nature. It’s rare to see him not smiling. But the injury tested that.
“I don't think people really understand what it's like when a player gets an injury, but it's hard,” Cooper said. “It's really hard, physically and mentally, the rehab process. Especially getting hurt a week before my senior season starts and knowing it’s my last year, it's been really tough.”
He said he appreciated the support of his teammates, the coaches and the OSU trainers. The games weren’t that difficult, he said, because he was so intent on doing whatever he could to help and encourage his teammates.
That’s one of the reasons Cooper earned captain status. On Tuesday, first-year defensive co-coordinator Jeff Hafley was asked what impressed him about Cooper.
“Attitude, toughness, leadership, speed, relentlessness,” Hafley replied. “I can't say enough about that guy. When he's around, you feel better. He just brings that certain way about him that everybody feels confident.
“From the moment I got here, he's one of the most impressive guys by the way he carries himself. When you think of Ohio State, that's the type of guy you think of.”
Cooper acknowledges that he’s not 100 percent healthy and probably won’t be for a while. But he believes he can still be an impact player.
“I want to make a difference,” Cooper said.
Huskers player suspended
for actions in OSU game
The Big Ten suspended Nebraska defensive lineman Khalil Davis for the Cornhuskers’ game this week against Northwestern for an incident that occurred early in Saturday’s game. With 9:18 left in the first quarter, Ohio State center Josh Myers ran downfield to block on a J.K. Dobbins run. Davis was behind Myers and fell on him at the end of the play.
What happened next couldn’t be seen on the television broadcast, but the Big Ten said it violated the league’s policy on sportsmanship.
Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis said he saw the transgression.
“There was stuff that he shouldn’t have done,” the right guard said. “It’s football. Stuff happens.”