Senior Bowl: Meet The WR Standout With A Surprising Cowboys Connection

MOBILE, Ala. – You don't need to know anything about Cooper Kupp to see him shine.

The unheralded Eastern Washington receiver is one of the most decorated players in FCS history, but he arrived at the Senior Bowl with the predictable "small school" tag.

He quickly set about shedding that tag, though, as he has routinely dusted his North Team competition at practice – highlighted by 2015 Thorpe Award winner Desmond King, out of Iowa.

"I believe in myself," Kupp said Wednesday. "I believe in the player that I am, and ultimately I believe that I was made to play this game and that God created me to be great at this thing."

The Yakima, Wash., native doesn't lack for confidence – and why would he? Kupp rewrote every record book imaginable during a four-year career at Eastern Washington. His 6,464 career receiving yards are the most in college football history, across all of college football. His 428 career receptions and 73 career touchdown catches are FCS records.

Kupp's sophomore season, which saw him catch 104 passes for 1,431 yards and 16 touchdowns, was statistically the worst of his career. That helps explain why he won the Walter Payton Award, given to the best player in FCS, after his junior season in 2015.

"I put in that time, I put in the work to make sure I'm the best that I can be and be able to have that belief in myself and know where my identity lies," Kupp said. "I know I can step on the field here and I can play with anyone."

Watching him move effortlessly from the inside to the outside is fun enough. But Kupp takes on another level of interest once he shares his back story. The 23-year-old is hoping to become a third-generation NFL player, and both of the first two generations spent time with the Dallas Cowboys.

Kupp is the grandson of Jake Kupp, who was a ninth-round draft selection by the Cowboys – No. 116 overall – back in 1964. The elder Kupp played two years at guard in Dallas, starting 24 of 28 games.

But it was New Orleans where he made his lasting impact, as Jake Kupp played for the Saints from 1968-1975, appearing in 106 total games and earning induction into the club's Hall of Fame.

"Growing up, he was just grandpa. He was grandpa first, and when you went downstairs, you saw the trophies, you saw the helmets and all that stuff," Cooper Kupp said. "But it was more, to us, we'd always be running around the basement with his helmets on."

Something got lost in translation in the family lineage, because Jake Kupp's son, Craig, would go on to play quarterback. Coming out of Pacific Lutheran, Craig was a fifth-round pick of the New York Giants in 1990. He'd move on to appear in one game for the Arizona Cardinals. His NFL stint ended in 1991, when he spent time with the Cowboys.

"Being able to grow up and have these guys that have such a great passion for football, and at the same time never pushing me toward that," Cooper Kupp said. "All they had to do was encourage me, support me. Just to have that and have the understanding of what it takes, it was a real blessing."

Understandably, the connection to the Cowboys isn't all that meaningful. Kupp said he grew up with an affection for the Saints, given his grandfather's decorated career in New Orleans.

But still. The Cowboys head into the offseason with a glaring need at receiver, as both Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are out of contract. He's not a burner, but Kupp figures to be one of the most polished receivers in this draft class, capable of playing in the slot and outside, and he's drawing projections as high as the second round.

"I don't want to be a one-trick pony, I want to be able to play inside and outside, be able to separate and know how to use my body," he said.

If the Cowboys opt to draft him, perhaps the third time could be the charm.

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