After his family moved to the state of Alabama when he was a youngster, Nathan Cooper said his dream was to play college football at the University Alabama.
Now eight years later, Cooper has altered that dream, but it still involves Alabama.
A standout in throwing events in track and field, Cooper signed a national letter of intent Thursday night to compete for the Crimson Tide’s track and field program.
The Dothan senior has won four individual state titles, three in outdoor (two shot put, one discus) and one indoor (shot put). He is also a national champion after winning the USATF Junior Olympics shot put title in the 17-18 age division this past July in Sacramento, Calif.
Cooper is also a member of the Dothan High football team as an offensive lineman.
“To be honest, we moved down from Kentucky in my fourth grade year and the dream was to move to Alabama and come play for the Alabama football,” said Cooper during a signing ceremony at the Dothan High gym Friday afternoon. “I started to figure out two years ago that I am only 5-foot-10 and that doesn’t work (at Alabama). If (coach Nick) Saban can’t stare up at you, he doesn’t want you.
“Still it has always been a dream to compete athletically at Alabama and this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Cooper said he will compete in the shot put and hammer throw in college. The hammer is an event the Alabama High School Athletic Association doesn’t allow, but Cooper does participate in the event during summer national tournaments.
The Wolves standout chose to compete for Alabama and head coach Dan Waters and field coach Derek Yush over interest from Troy and Maryland.
“I went on three visits and I loved every single coach I saw,” Cooper said of Alabama. “Coach Yush, the coach at Alabama, just kept popping into my head. I really liked him.
“He has coached Olympic athletes. I went up there twice and watched two Olympians throw. You can’t get too much better than that. The program as a whole is strong.”
Cooper earned the Dothan Eagle’s first Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year this past spring after winning the state Class 6A shot put with a throw of 58 feet, 6 ¼ inches, the second best mark in Alabama this season. It was also a career best at the time for Cooper. He placed fifth at state in the discus with a 154 feet, 3 inches throw.
For the season, he won the shot put at all nine meets, including the Meet of Champions in Mobile and the Mountain Brook Invitational. He finished first in discus four times, was runner-up three times and also earned one third and one fifth-place finish in the event.
Including his summer season at national tournaments, he finished 16-0 in shot put competitions for the spring and summer.
Dothan track/field coach Chris Cooper, also Nathan’s father, said the signing was a proud moment for him, both as a coach and father, but stressed his son’s work ethic and dedication were the pivotal factors in the scholarship.
Cooper, the coach, added the Alabama signee’s devotion to his teammates was even more impressive, reciting a meet last year when he had water bottles and coaching tips for those teammates 12 hours before his own “stressful and intense” competition.
More importantly, though, to Cooper the coach and dad was an intangible trait.
“The thing I am most proud of as a coach and as a father is this young man is extremely humble,” Cooper said. “You wouldn’t know those were his stats (titles). You wouldn’t know he was a five-time (state) champion and a national champion because he will not be the one to tell you.
“The sky is the limit because he understands and he is humble.”