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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 02 2011

Cooper to see recruiting reward today with Bison football team

It was in 2005 when tight end A.J. Cooper transferred from Glendale Community College (Ariz.) to North Dakota State. Little did he know it would turn into a career.

Today marks the fifth time Cooper will go into NCAA signing day as a Bison assistant coach. It perhaps will be his most satisfying day of announcing the newest recruits.

After three years, the Bison made major headway in the Arizona recruiting territory, with four players expected to sign letters of intent. The first two years yielded nobody.

“We just had to chip away at it,” Cooper said. “We missed on a couple of kids that we were real close with in past years, but sometimes that’s recruiting. It just took awhile.”

Cooper coaches the defensive ends at NDSU. Just like on-the-field teaching, learning the recruiting ropes is a combination of personal experience, tutoring from other coaches and observing others at work.

When approaching kids in Arizona, he said he first talks about NDSU’s football tradition followed closely by the Fargodome, its home field.

“They don’t want to play outside and neither did I,” Cooper said.

Cooper said Bison safety John Pike played a big role in NDSU landing quarterback Ryan Stanford and running back Matt Jones from Scottsdale, safety Danell Miles from Goodyear and cornerback/running back Jordan Champion from Avondale. Stanford and Jones were teammates and Miles and Champion know each other from youth football.

Pike, from Chandler, Ariz., transferred to NDSU from San Diego Mesa Community College last year and has one year of eligibility remaining.

“The other Arizona kids came in and could relate to John,” Cooper said.

At first a graduate assistant at NDSU, Cooper has gradually gained coaching responsibility. In addition to Arizona, his recruiting area this year included Nebraska and western Iowa. He was the recruiter for fullback Andrew Bonnet from Underwood, Iowa.

When reached late last week, Cooper was driving through Nebraska working on the 2012 recruiting class. Like the other Bison coaches, he’s been at recruiting full time since the day the season ended.

The Bison lost in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals at Eastern Washington on a Saturday in mid-December. By Sunday night, the coaches were on the road for recruiting destinations.

“It’s tiring but it’s part of the job,” Cooper said. “It’s really a year-long deal. To be honest, it’s not bad this time of the year. You’re not in negative 20 (degree) weather. You have to dig a little bit, but once you get in front of a kid and his parents, you get excited.”

Like all coaches across the country, they will be excited to introduce their new recruits. Then, like most of them, he will be able to take a deep breath for the first time since fall practice started.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia