Amari Cooper

Maybe Amari Cooper’s tremendous 2015 NFL rookie year shouldn’t have come as a shock. After all, he experienced similar success when transitioning from high school to SEC college football in 2012. He broke freshman records for Alabama in receptions and receiving yards. Sure, the step up to the pros was even steeper, but thanks to his upbringing in South Florida, he knew he could get off to a fast start.

“I would say a lot of my mentality stems from [playing in high school there],” Cooper said. “There are so many really good players from that area, so it really makes you become a competitor. When you compete every day against such talent, you feel like you can make it at any level.”

And once the wideout started repping the black and silver of the Oakland Raiders, he quickly realized that he could compete. “From the time I stepped on the practice field, I felt like it wasn’t that much different than college ball,” he said. “But it’s still obviously a lot of work and it took my first big play in an actual game to really validate it.” That play came in the form of a 68-yard touchdown against Baltimore in just his second pro game.

Aside from his confident mindset on game day, the other reasons for his early dominance involved small tweaks he made behind the scenes.

“One of the adjustments I’ve had to account for was just learning situational football,” Cooper said. “The veterans are always studying film, trying to gain that in-game edge. So I just had to be smart and diligent like the other guys.”

The other adjustment was placing a greater emphasis on recovery. “It is of the utmost importance at this level,” the 21-year-old said. “You actually have a bit more freedom in the pros, so you have the time to recover properly. Some guys choose not to, but guys who want to be great players make room for it.”

So, if you read this post hoping to discover a secret or shortcut to dominating from day one, there isn’t one. Cooper’s recipe for success is a winning mentality, plenty of film study, proper recovery, and tons of hard work. That may not be a fun or exciting answer, but when looking at his results, it’s impossible to argue against. Just imagine what he’ll be able to do in year two.