Pharoh Cooper believed 2015 would be his final collegiate football season before the season even began.
“I had an idea coming into this season,” the former South Carolina wide receiver told The State this week. “I was leaning at least 80-20 toward going ahead and leaving.”
He decided for certain after a junior season in which he led the Gamecocks with 66 catches and 973 yards. Despite gaining only 54 receiving yards as a true freshman, Cooper finished his career with 138 catches for 2,163 yards. He leaves as one of just nine Gamecocks in history to notch at least 2,000 yards through the air.
“It’s a blessing to be where I am today being the short time I had compared to some of the other guys,” said Cooper, who played quarterback at Havelock High School in Havelock, N.C., and started his collegiate career as a defensive back before being moved to wide receiver by Steve Spurrier.
Cooper added 529 return yards, 513 rushing yards and 118 passing yards in his three-year career. His 3,205 career all-purpose yards rank 10th in school history.
Cooper signed with agent Todd France and CAA after South Carolina’s season.
“I had been talking to them throughout the season,” he said. “They reached out to me before the season started.”
He is currently working out at EXOS in Phoenix, Ariz., and preparing for February’s NFL Combine. Despite being just down the road from Monday’s national championship game, Cooper has no plans to attend.
“Me and some of the fellas will probably get together and watch it,” Cooper said.
Former Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard and former Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller are working out at the same facility as Cooper, who could be a mid-round draft pick, according to Rotoworld.com analyst Josh Norris.
“I have been hearing a whole bunch of different things,” Cooper said. “I see it all the time but I try not to pay attention to it because I know it’s just predictions. I am just trying to come into this process hungry and have the best combine I can, have a great 40 and a good on-field workout. I guess I’d say I’d like to be more toward the first two rounds. After the combine I feel (the projections) will be more realistic.”
South Carolina’s 3-9 season didn’t have any impact on Cooper’s decision to leave Columbia, he said.
“I didn’t see that coming at all,” he said. “After the defensive coaching changes and everybody was grinding all through camp. We had a good camp. I really thought we had a chance to be a better team than we were before, but it didn’t play out that way.”