FRISCO, Texas – Amari Cooper sees things just a little bit differently now.
How couldn't he? From the time he caught the attention of Alabama's coaching staff at high school football summer camps, he's been a cornerstone player.
From a high school All-American, to a college All-American, to an Alabama record holder, to a top-5 draft pick, to a Pro Bowl wide receiver. It never occurred to Cooper that he couldn't be part of a team's plans for the future – until he wasn't.
"I think about that a lot actually, because I never thought about players getting traded before I got traded," he said. "It just never crossed my mind to think about it."
Suffice to say, that's changed in the past 12 months. Exactly one year ago, with their team reeling from a last-second loss to the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys' front office decided that desperate times called for desperate measures.
The loss had dropped the Cowboys to 3-4, and their decision to use a committee of wide receivers wasn't working. Their offense was generating an awful 183 passing yards per game, and Dak Prescott had thrown just eight touchdowns in seven weeks.
After mulling it over for a few days, the Cowboys pulled the trigger and sent a first-round draft pick to Oakland in exchange for Cooper – literally while their current team was on a tour of the National Museum of African American History & Culture and the Lincoln Memorial.
"So, we're sitting there in Washington, D.C. last year while our team was going through the national monument and while we're sitting there doing that, we're trading for Cooper," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
One year after the fact, the Cowboys and Amari Cooper are all smiles about the trade that brought the Pro Bowl wide receiver to Dallas.
And thus began the biggest upheaval of Cooper's football career – changing cities, organizations and playbooks, all in the span of a day. Judging from his comments after the Cowboys' 37-10 win against Philadelphia, it's certainly something that has stuck with him.
"For example, a player like Jalen Ramsey – he just got traded and he had to play today," Cooper said. "He probably doesn't really know much about what they're trying to do on defense.
In that regard, Cooper actually had a remarkably large cushion in his transition. The Raiders dealt him at the end of their bye week, coming off a debacle of a loss to Seattle in London. The trade sent him to the Cowboys, who were just starting a bye week of their own – effectively ensuring him two weeks off to get acclimated.
"It couldn't have been a more perfect chance to learn the offense and come in, and I did get a chance to play and know the offense and do pretty good," Cooper said.
As we've come to learn about Cooper, he's a fairly understated guy – and the above quote serves as pretty perfect evidence. To say he did "good" upon arriving in Dallas is a massive understatement.
In his Cowboys debut, he caught five balls for 58 yards and a touchdown, and that was only the beginning. His arrival helped spark a 7-1 Cowboys run to the NFC East title and a run to the divisional round of the playoffs.
Sunday's 106-yard performance marked his 16th regular season game with the Cowboys and his 18th total. In that time span, he's simply piled up 104 catches for 1,516 yards and 12 touchdowns. That's an average weekly performance of six catches for 84 yards and a score.
"I wouldn't say it's been too far from what I expected," Cooper said. "I expected to come in here and be a play maker and help this offense and help us win games. I think I've done some of that so far."
Even given the steep cost of the trade, it's a price the Cowboys would gladly pay again. Had they used that first-round pick on a receiver this past spring, they likely would have landed one of the likes of Marquise Brown, N'Keal Harry or Deebo Samuel – none of whom are making the same caliber of impact.
On top of that, in Cooper they've found a guy who has fit flawlessly into the locker room culture that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has built over the last six years.
"The thing that's probably impressed me the most is just the kind of guy he is," Garrett said. "I had heard really good things from Coach Saban and everyone else who had been around him about what kind of person he is. But he's a real pro, and he wants to be a great player."
It was a decision that prompted plenty of speculation back when the trade first happened. But one after another, Cooper has answered them all. Just about the only concern remaining is when he might sign a long-term extension – but even that feels like an afterthought, as the understated receiver has repeated often that he's not sweating his financial future.
To be blunt about it, something probably needs to be figured out sooner rather than later. The fact that the Cowboys are celebrating the anniversary of this trade means they're roughly halfway through this season, which means Cooper is only under contract for nine more games.
Asked about it Tuesday morning, Jones sounded confident both sides would eventually come to an agreement.
"I have no reason to think that Amari Cooper won't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys," he said.
A cornerstone member of a storied organization. That feels like a fitting narrative for Cooper, given where his career started. For a guy who hadn't thought much about being traded, he's certainly made it work.
"We're proud to have Amari. He's impactful to our team," Jones said. "That's exactly what we use that pick for. He's certainly performed at the level that we anticipated."