He played wide receiver most of his career at Rutgers and was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers with the 252nd overall pick, two shy of being Mr. Irrelevant. Cooper caught the eye of Chiefs general manager John Dorsey during training camp, shortly before he was cut by the 49ers.
On Sunday, it was Cooper who recovered a fumble for a touchdown, and then picked off a pass that helped boost the Chiefs to a 26-17 win over the Tennessee Titans. The victory left the Chiefs (5-0) as one of three remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL.
“It’s a blessing,” Cooper said. “I’m lucky to be out there.”
Maybe “lucky” isn’t the right word. “Surprising” might be a better fit, both for Cooper and the Chiefs, who on Sunday became the first team in NFL history to win its first five games after winning two or fewer the previous season.
“It feels like a dream, but this is reality,” said wide receiver Dexter McCluster, one of the holdovers from last year. “It feels good. We put in so much work throughout the week as far as on the field and off the field, and just to see it show on the field, it’s just a great feeling.”
The Chiefs made some splashy moves in the offseason to turn over a roster that had talented players but far too many holes. They traded with San Francisco for quarterback Alex Smith, who has stabilized the most critical position on the field, and used their No. 1 overall draft pick on right tackle Eric Fisher, who has shown signs of progress when he’s been healthy.
But more than anything else, it’s been the middle-of-the-road acquisitions that have allowed the Chiefs to rise to the top of the AFC West, where they’re tied with the Denver Broncos.
Donnie Avery has been a productive wide receiver in the NFL, but hardly a star. He signed as a free agent and was perhaps the biggest reason the Chiefs beat the Eagles a couple weeks ago. He also had three more catches for a game-high 91 yards in the win over the Titans.
Fullback Anthony Sherman, playing the most unglamorous of positions, has paved the way for Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles, and even caught a pair of passes on Sunday. Guys such as Chad Hall, Junior Hemingway and Quintin Demps have also provided big plays.
“Nobody expected us to be 5-0. We surprised ourselves as well,” Charles said. “I’m just glad that we continue to come out here and play games and win.”
It’s not as if the Chiefs have been perfect. Far from it.