During last season’s Heisman Trophy presentation in New York City, Amari Cooper, a finalist for the award as a record setting WR from Alabama, told a story about sacrifice live on ESPN.
Michelle Green, Amari’s mother, didn’t own a car while working a number of jobs in order to keep her family afloat in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami. She did double shifts as a waitress and cashier and walked three miles to get there.
A turning point in Cooper’s life came when, as a 10-year-old boy, he told his mom he didn’t want to make the walk with her to Milam’s Market for groceries.
When she returned home that day, Cooper could see the marks all along his mother’s arms where she carried all the bags the few miles home.
“I was selfish,” Cooper said. “She sacrificed for us. You want to know how much somebody loves you, just look at how much they sacrifice.”
Cooper had his first chance to show the sacrifice that made him the 4th player chosen in the 2015 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders as the team opened rookie mini camp today.
“It went exactly how I thought it would go,” Cooper said. “It went pretty good. I made a couple of plays. We looked good out there as a team.”
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio had high praise for his prize rookie receiver.
“He’s going to be a good player,” Del Rio said. “He’s a young man transitioning into the league. There’s a lot of work to do. It’s good to have him here and participating.”
In his final season at Alabama, Cooper led the nation with 124 catches and ranked second with 1,727 yards receiving and 16 touchdown catches. In three years with the Crimson Tide, Cooper had 228 catches for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns.
In a record setting game against Tennessee, Cooper scorched the Vols’ defense for 224 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He passed former Alabama great Julio Jones for most receiving yards in a single game.
After the game, he shared that his speed, his hands, are gifts from God and that no one should waste their gifts from God, whether you are a double shift waitress or a college football star.
“All the gifts and talents we have are from God, but they are also for God,” Cooper wrote on Instagram. “For his glory and for his pleasure. Don’t waste them, make great use of them and make him proud.”
Speaking of his days growing up in Coconut Grove, Cooper said, “As far as my personal growth, my faith has been tested many times. I’ve faced adversity a lot, but I remain faithful. So if you remain faithful, and you don’t quit, I believe that the Lord will bless you in all things. That’s how my faith system works.”
Oakland has not had a receiver with a 1,000-yard season since Randy Moss in 2005. Tim Brown is the last wide receiver the Raiders drafted who became a 1,000-yard receiver. That was 27 years ago.
“They haven’t had a player like him in the past 10, 11 years,” Brown said. “Cooper will come in ready day one. He is a complete football player and he can do anything on the football field.”
There’s quite a buzz in Oakland these days over the kid who learned life’s greatest lesson from a waitress who didn’t know how to stop sacrificing for her kids.