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4 years ago

As accolades roll in, Amari Cooper remains quiet, humble and destined for greatness

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Quietness can be an asset, and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper uses it better than anyone else.

His teammates say he’s a silent leader and a hard-worker. Others say he’s the best receiver in the Southeastern Conference, maybe the entire country.

He speaks in succinct, measured sentences that don’t leave anything open to interpretation. He doesn’t deal in the hypothetical, and is strikingly literal in press conferences. He lets his play on the field do the talking, and it speaks with a megaphone.

Ending the regular season, Cooper leads the nation in receptions and receiving yards, has 115 catches for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns, is the Biletnikoff Award winner for the country’s top receiver and a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

He has surpassed every meaningful Alabama receiving record that exists, and he isn’t finished yet.

Cooper has waited his turn to become the next in line to star for the team, but those who saw him in high school knew he would get here eventually.

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Former Miami Northwestern High School head coach Billy Rolle drove Cooper to school every day for three years, and could never get him to talk. After three years, Rolle said he maybe heard 100 words from him.

Each day on his way to school, Rolle would pass Cooper’s house in Coconut Grove, Fla. and pick him up. He did this as a favor to Cooper’s mom — a cousin of Rolle’s — and as a favor to Cooper, who made the decision to play for him.

After being kicked off the football team at Coral Gables High School, Cooper transferred to Northwestern following his freshman year, but didn’t immediately excel. He starred in track and field and basketball, but it took a few years to reach his full potential in football.

His former high school quarterback, current Minnesota Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater — who was a senior when Cooper was a junior — said he had five future division one receivers on his team that year including Cooper, admitting their team was unfair to play.

Behind all that talent, Cooper mostly returned punts and got playing time near the end of blowouts, but to get noticed he just needed the opportunity to start.

“We knew that he was going to be one of the next great wide receivers from my high school,” Bridgewater said. “It was just trying to give him a chance with all the talent that we had.”

After his senior season, Cooper and Rolle went on a trip to football camps to advertise Cooper’s abilities. They went to Georgia, LSU and Florida, making a final stop at Alabama, without much fanfare. Rolle said Cooper wasn’t officially invited to the camp at Alabama, but the two of them were passing through on their way back to Miami and stopped in.

That particular camp had a few highly touted cornerbacks who were the main focus of the group, but that quickly changed when Cooper went deep, and kept going deep for long passes. Rolle said he ran the same route every time.

“Amari burnt those guys the whole day,” Rolle said. “He got out the car, put his shoes on, and lifted off.”

This impressed Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who recognized Cooper’s talents after he saw Cooper dominating these supposedly great high school corners.

“We’ve had some good receivers that have been in our camps over the years,” Saban said. “I think he may have been the most impressive to me in terms of his ability, his ability to change direction and get out of a break, the quickness, the acceleration, the speed, good hands, hard worker.

“I walked away from that camp saying, ‘This guy may be the best receiver we’ve ever had.”

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Alabama football under Saban has typically revolved around a slow, methodical power running game and a stout defense. In years past, everyone in the stadium knew Alabama was going to run the ball, usually to repeated success.

This season, with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, Alabama still has the ability to run, but the success of the offense relies on passes to Cooper. Everyone knows the ball is going to Cooper, and most of the time he catches it.

He was always a good player — especially his freshman year when he had 1,000 yards receiving — but the matchups and maneuvering Kiffin uses to highlight Cooper have led to this season’s drastic improvement.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Coach Kiffin,” Cooper said. “He’s a great offensive coordinator. He draws up plays to make sure his playmakers are in position to make plays.”

Cooper can’t be defended one-on-one, or by a zone. CBS Sports college football analyst and former NFL quarterback Gary Danielson says it’s actually harder to defend him with two guys.

On defending him, Rolle said, “You better send 10 guys.”

And if a team tries to remove him from the game, it leaves itself exposed to gains from Alabama’s other receivers or its run game.

“Once you put one person on him, you’re making a bad mistake,” Alabama safety Landon Collins said. “We don’t even do that in practice.”

Coaches have been trying and failing to stop him all season and all have marveled at his talent in their postgame press conferences. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said Cooper is one of the best receivers to play college football. Auburn tried to treat him like he was just another receiver and paid dearly for it.

“Everything I’ve ever learned about sports is you create a mismatch,” Danielson said. “That mismatch could be anywhere — left tackle, center, rush linebacker — and Amari Cooper creates such a mismatch that it distorts the field. They’re basically playing 10 on 9 1/2 because Amari takes a player and a half off the field every play.”

Bridgewater and Rolle have only seen Cooper improve in college. Using his size and speed, he never had to be physical in high school. But in college, Alabama and its strength and conditioning program have developed him into a much more physical player, which Bridgewater says is now one of his best assets.

“In high school, he really didn’t lift weights much,” Bridgewater said. “He just went out there and played off of talent. But you put a guy like Amari in the weight room — and he’s a guy who I’m pretty sure can lift the entire weight room — he’s going to get much more physical.”

Cooper’s physicality has become a key part of his game. He can block for other receivers downfield and take a safety out during a run play. He isn’t the fastest player on the field, but his route-running, field awareness and footwork get him open so that he can stretch the field and make the big plays.

“He gets in and out of his routes as good as anybody I’ve seen,” Danielson said. “He understands splits and discipline and setting up his defensive back, leaving room for the quarterback to throw the ball on deep plays, and understands how to find the soft parts of the zone. These are a lot of things that are unteachable.”

Pair a strong work ethic with innate ability and a coaching staff that can accentuate that to its fullest, and it creates a great player.

“I think he’s with one of the best coaching staffs in college football,” Bridgewater said. “When you have great coaching and a player like Amari who doesn’t say anything, he’s like a sponge, he just listens and everything soaks in.

“He’s destined for greatness.”

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Cooper already holds every receiving record in Alabama school history, and has at least one more game in crimson and white.

He is the school leader in career receptions, single-season receptions, single-game receptions, career receiving yards, single-season receiving yards, single-season receptions, career touchdown catches, single-season receiving touchdowns, and single-game touchdowns. Cooper also set the SEC record for receptions in a season, and broke the record for most catches in an SEC Championship game.

Cooper is fortunate to play in this era of offense-driven football, with a coordinator like Kiffin who knows how to get the ball to him, but his numbers speak for themselves.

He never asks for the ball; it’s not in his personality. He knows that sooner or later the ball will come his way, and if he is asked to be a decoy or a blocker in the run game, that’s what he’ll do.

“He’s an incredibly humble, hard-working person,” Danielson said. “There’s no ‘Me’ in Amari Cooper. He’s a great teammate. He’s very coachable, and I’ve never even seen him come close to pouting or wanting the football. Those are attributes that any team would love to have of any teammate, let alone a wide receiver.”

Danielson puts Cooper third on his list of the greatest college receivers he has covered as a broadcaster, only trailing NFL stars Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson and ranking above A.J. Green and former Alabama standout Julio Jones.

Compared to greats like Jones, Ozzie Newsome, and David Palmer, Cooper may be the best receiver in Alabama history. He already is statistically, and with the College Football Playoff coming in three weeks, he will have more chances to solidify his place in the pantheon of Alabama football.

“Amari is not worthy of comparing him to anybody else,” Saban said. “He is Amari Cooper.”

Byrne: Water infrastructure vital to Alabama’s economy

There are very few places in the United States that can boast the sort of diverse infrastructure we have here in Alabama. There are 11 interstates, over 3,000 miles of freight rail, 5 commercial airports, and more than 132,000 miles of rivers and stream channels in our state.

One of our state’s most important pieces of infrastructure is the Port of Mobile, the 10th largest port and fastest growing container terminal in the United States. With 41 berths, 5 million square feet of warehouses and yards, and covering 4,000 total acres, it has an economic impact of around 135,000 jobs in Southwest Alabama and generates more than $22 billion per year in economic value.

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Recent expansions and developments at the Port will only further grow the economic impact of the Port on not only Southwest Alabama but our entire state. For example, the recent announcement about a new roll-on/roll-off vehicle processing facility at the Port will help our state’s automotive manufacturing industry continue to grow.

Even with these impressive facts, it has been clear that our infrastructure throughout the country is in need of updates, repairs, and overhauls to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of transportation and innovation in order to compete economically on the world stage.

Last week, in a major bipartisan effort, Congress sent a piece of legislation to President Trump’s desk that will help to unlock the full economic potential of our region and state.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 passed the Senate last week, after passing out of the House a few weeks back. This bill authorizes funding for waterway projects, port improvement projects, and other important water infrastructure projects in all 50 states. Not only will this allow for much-needed infrastructure improvements, but the bill reinstates a “Buy America” provision for federally funded projects, meaning a boost for American steel producers.

Commonsense legislation like this will create jobs, incentivize the use of American-made products, and build our nation’s capabilities to produce, package, and transport goods all around the globe. It will also make our drinking water safer, improve our wastewater systems, combat algae blooms, and restore our nation’s beaches through grant programs.

The Army Corps of Engineers can move forward on improving our dams, locks, reservoirs, and shipping channels. We have a major Army Corps project that needs attention right here in Southwest Alabama. The project to deepen and widen the Mobile Bay Ship Channel has the ability to fundamentally alter the economic potential of the Port and create more jobs in our state. Senator Richard Shelby has long been a champion for this project, and I am committed to working with him to make it a reality.

Our shipyards, airports, and rail yards will all see an impact from waterway projects like this, and I am thankful to the members of the Senate and my colleagues in the House for passing this water infrastructure legislation to help propel Alabama even further into the 21st Century.

The future of Alabama rests upon our ability to look beyond the short term and into what will set us up for success for years to come. Focusing locally on important infrastructure projects will spur economic growth through business investment and job creation, and it will open up opportunities we don’t even know exist yet.

Investing in our infrastructure today will lead to a stronger tomorrow. I applaud the work of my colleagues in both the House and the Senate in making a better economic future possible through this vital water infrastructure legislation.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

9 hours ago

Shelter dogs fly from Alabama to New Jersey after Hurricane Michael leaves pets stranded

Shelter dogs from Birmingham are getting a new start after they boarded a plane and were flown to New Jersey.

A partnership between the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, Greater Good, and Wings Of Rescue made the safe transportation of 50 dogs possible.

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“It gives these animals an immediate chance at getting in a home. Animals get stressed in a shelter. And with all the storms, and all this travel, it almost makes you want to cry being out here and seeing this,” said GBHS CEO Allison Black Cornelius.

With the transportation of the dogs to New Jersey, more animals can now be taken into the Birmingham shelter from Florida and surrounding areas.

“The average length of stay for a pet transported from Wings of Rescue is about two and a half days, three and a half days,” said President of Wings Of Rescue Ric Browde.

“So, these pets have a little bit of celebrity to them, so they’re probably going to be moving out faster. They’re just going to go very quickly. ”

Donations to Hurricane Michael animal transports can be made here.

@RealKyleMorris is a Yellowhammer News contributor and also contributes weekly to The Daily Caller

9 hours ago

Jones accuses ALGOP of putting ‘party over’ state, country on Kavanaugh; ALGOP responds: ‘A grave error as it highlights his arrogance’

In an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” that aired on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) defended his vote opposing the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jones, who had pledged to keep an open mind throughout the process, voted along party lines against President Donald Trump’s pick to replace the retired associate justice, Anthony Kennedy. In the end, Jones’ vote was not consequential, as Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50-48 margin.

The junior Alabama Democratic U.S. Senator was criticized for voting against Kavanaugh by the Alabama Republican Party, which accused him of putting the party over the state and the country.

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“You know, I do what I think is right,” Jones said when asked by host Don Dailey about the backlash. “This is the same Republican Party who voted for a guy last year – who continued to support someone who ran against me who there were very, very serious and credible allegations. This is a Republican Party that puts party over state, party over country. So, I’m not surprised they put this in political tones. The very thing that I avoided from the beginning, from my standpoint and my standpoint was what mattered to me and my staff – we were not looking at this in political terms. We were looking at it to determine his record, what he’s said, what he’s done, what we believe he could do, look at his qualifications, as well as his temperament and other issues to determine whether or not this man should be on the United States Supreme Court. It was a completely non-partisan issue the way we looked at it. And we knew the way other people would make it partisan. But that’s fine with me. I can justify my vote to anyone.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Alabama Republican Party chairwoman Terry Lathan fired back and said Jones’ “no” vote” highlighted his “arrogance.”

“Looking at this from ‘his’ standpoint and his ‘staff’ standpoint and not the will of the majority of Alabamians is a grave error as it highlights his arrogance,” Lathan said. “It clearly shows us it’s about him and his liberal views, not what most of our people think. Doug Jones said the majority of Alabamians wishes were not the ‘be all to end all’ on this vote. That ‘I know better than you all’ point of view will be revisited by voters in 2020. We will remind them what he thinks of the majority.”

Later in his “Capitol Journal” appearance, Jones indicated he had no regrets regarding that vote despite what the polling in Alabama showed regarding Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“You can’t worry,” he replied. “When you’re in a position like I am, you can’t worry about that. You know Don, if I tried to make every decision based on polling or what my political opponents say is the will of the people, then I wouldn’t be a very effective U.S. Senator. That’s not leadership. Leadership is studying the issues. And I had a heck of a lot more information than all of these politicians who came out of the chute wanting me to vote for or against. I had just as many people wanting me to vote against him as for him that had not done the research. We did our homework, and I’m comfortable where I am, and that’s the way we continue to operate in my office.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

10 hours ago

Are Alabama Republicans softening on Medicaid expansion?

The race for Governor in Alabama has been boiled down to three issues:

  1. Governor Kay Ivey’s claim she steadied the ship of state
  2. Democrat challenger Walt Maddox whining about not being able to secure a debate
  3. Maddox wanting to expand Medicaid without a serious plan for doing so

Republicans in Alabama have been steadfastly against the Medicaid expansion proposal because it will require an additional outlay of up to $200 million dollars. The infusion of federal dollars that would come after an expansion has been sighted numerous times, by numerous Democrats running for statewide office. The flawed argument is that the program will pay for itself.

It won’t.

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The facts are simple, the Alabama legislature, which will probably retain their super-majority status, will have to budget for any expansion. This is a wildly unpopular idea amongst Republican legislators, but now lame-duck State Senator Gerald Dial is stepping out and advocating for it.

He writes:

For years, we have used state dollars to recruit industries to locate in Alabama, and we have been very successful. We now have an opportunity to support existing health care jobs and make sure every Alabamian has access to care when they need it, and where they need it. Investing in Medicaid expansion will keep our rural hospitals open, save hundreds of local jobs, and provide basic insurance coverage to almost 300,000 Alabamians. These are our friends and neighbors, hardworking Alabamians who don’t earn enough to afford health insurance. They work in our local restaurants, in our local retail shops and build our houses. Medicaid expansion would enable them to continue working while keeping their family healthy.

Now there is nothing earth-shattering about this suggestion or the argument being made here. The expansion would bring in buckets of federal tax dollars, and that money would be spent in the state of Alabama. It will also boost the bottom lines of hospitals and provide money that will matriculate its way around the Alabama economy.

The argument could easily be made that the fight against ObamaCare is lost politically. “Pre-existing conditions coverage” has led to higher costs, but that aspect remains popular. Republicans failed to repeal and replace it in 2017, and they don’t seem to keen on revisiting that fight right now.

Even with those battles fought and lost, Republican voters still dislike ObamaCare.

But lawmakers’ desire to acquire new spending in Alabama may be leading us toward a push to expand Medicaid after this round of elections.

There is a history for taking on politically unpopular issues in Alabama shortly after elections take place. In 2007, legislators gave themselves a pay raise. In 2015, Governor Robert Bentley (and the real Governor Rebekah Caldwell Mason) found himself advocating for additional revenue after running a campaign saying that very thing would not be necessary.

Senator Dial seems to be on an island by himself on this issue right now, and he may be a lone voice in the Alabama Republican Party making this call.

But don’t be surprised if this changes after November 5th.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

11 hours ago

Watch: Dog goes crazy after Alabama owner returns from deployment overseas

Seeing military service members reunited with loved ones after lengthy periods of time overseas is always emotional, but this time it is man’s best friend stealing the show.

Alabama’s Captain Josh Williams just returned from a ten-month deployment on the Korea peninsula with his brigade, which is part of the 3rd Infantry Division. In a video recorded by his wife Anna, Williams is greeted by one very happy canine companion.

Watch:

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The dog’s name is Milo, and, as you can tell, he is excited to have Captain Williams back home.

Williams is a Cavalry Troop Commander and earned his commission as an Army Officer through Auburn University’s ROTC program. He is a fourth-generation Army officer, and his grandfather did a tour in Korea 55 years ago this year. When Williams first arrived on the Korean peninsula in January of this year the tensions were at their highest level since his grandfather was there, but diplomatic tensions have eased to the calmest levels in recent years during his deployment.

“Praise God,” Williams’ father, state Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City), told Yellowhammer News, referencing the deescalation of tensions with North Korea and his son’s safe return.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn