Pharoh Cooper was on the football field Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean he was in his comfort zone.
“I’m just glad it’s over with really,” the former South Carolina standout wide receiver said after he and 16 other ex-Gamecocks worked out for NFL scouts at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Cooper led the Gamecocks in receiving each of the past two seasons, totaling 2,109 yards and 17 touchdowns, but he wasn’t playing football Wednesday. Instead, he was being put through the series of physical tests pro teams ask of every applicant this time of year – from the bench press to the vertical jump to the 40-yard dash.
“I’m not a big test guy,” Cooper said. “I’m not going to run a 4.3 or jump a 40 (inch vertical). I’m just going to go out there and play football.”
Cooper was hand-timed at 4.61 seconds in his first 40 and 4.69 in his second attempt, according to numbers provided to The State. Cooper did not run the 40 at February’s NFL Combine due to a quadriceps strain. His time of 4.61 would have ranked 28th among wide receivers at this year’s combine.
“They love the 40, but I’m not a fast burner. They know that,” Cooper said. “I’m a football player. Whatever my 40 is, it is what it is, I can’t do anything about it, and I don’t care about it anymore.”
Cooper wasn’t pleased with his performance in pass-catching drills at the combine, but he felt like he rebounded in that department Wednesday.
“I kind of left a bad mark on my name at the Combine, dropped a couple balls,” he said. “I feel like I did good through the whole position drills today. Overall, I think I did really good.”
South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, who served as the team’s interim head coach for Cooper’s final six games, agreed the wide receiver had a good day.
“He’s a great guy you could count on in game day,” Elliott said. “He gave the sense of everything is going to be OK because he’s going to make a play.”
Cooper hopes to be a second- or third-round selection, he said. He will spend the next two months splitting time between Columbia and his hometown of Havelock, N.C., trying to stay in shape in order to be ready for his first NFL practice.
He has had conversations with the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys, meetings with the Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions, and he will work out for the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans in April.
“They all told me that everything they heard was I was a nice, respectful guy,” Cooper said. “I came from a military background and I think a lot of coaches liked that, being disciplined. I think they know I’m a good character guy and don’t have to worry about issues off the field.”
Cooper, who has signed with sports agency CAA, also caught punts and threw a few passes for the scouts Wednesday.
“All of them talked to me about special teams,” he said. “They know I played defense in high school so I can go down there and tackle somebody if I need to.”
Cooper is projected primarily as a slot receiver in the NFL.
“All the teams know I can play outside or in the slot but most teams say they see me in the slot more than the outside,” he said.
Cooper prepared for the combine at a workout facility in Arizona and was happy to be back in the Carolinas, he said.
“That was great, catching up with all the old guys, all the seniors, going back over memories,” he said. “It was just cool to see everybody’s faces.”