Phoebus lineman Donovan Cooper (Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757)
Phoebus OL Donovan Cooper uses memory of Jamari Sanders to aid in elevation of his purpose
by Brandon Mitchell
“I feel like you can be the best at anything if you put your effort and dedication into your dream.” -Donovan Cooper-
It’s not as if the road for Phoebus starting offensive lineman Donovan Cooper has been one filled with detours and construction signs. For the most part, it’s been on void of disturbances and diversions which has led the Phoebus product to a fairly successful recruitment. However, tragedy struck earlier this year in May when former Phantoms offensive/defensive lineman Jamari Sanders was fatally shot at a Phoebus playground. This was just a month removed from Cooper picking up his first collegiate offer from Virginia University of Lynchburg.
“A couple months ago back in April I got my first offer from Virginia University of Lynchburg and sadly on May 2, I lost one of my teammates and my brother due to gun violence in Jamari Sanders. I knew at that time I had to elevate and take my game to another level for my brother,” Cooper stated.
The motivation spurred from the unfortunate and untimely passing of Jamari Sanders is one that truly allowed Cooper open up this season on and off the football field. After all, the first two years Cooper was at Phoebus, Sanders was a person he could rely on at any time and for any reason.
“We were very close,” Cooper told recruit757. “We had each other’s back through anything and everything. Most of freshman and sophomore year, you would always see him with me. He was somebody I could always call or talk to when I needed help with something and he motivated me to be great even when I was done. That’s what you call brotherhood.”
Cooper went on to help lead the Phantoms to a 9-1 record through the regular season and into the playoffs. The Region 3A quarter-finals were a success as the Phantoms knocked off New Kent 28-16.
However, the victory came with a new set of issues. The Phantoms went on to lose not only Jaylen White against New Kent, but Cooper also became sidelined with what turned out to be a torn meniscus. Surgery was scheduled for December 14, but it was pushed back to February with the injury not being as serious as previously speculated.
“The injury isn’t that severe at all,” Cooper said. “It could heal on its own. I didn’t want to play and make it any worse so I decided to sit out the last three playoff games and the state championship game. It hurt to sit out, but this injury has taught me a lot of things most notably to stay humble and to continue to have faith in God.”
Cooper’s faith has been the foundation of what he has been able to accomplish this year. He’s currently up to 17 collegiate offers with his most notable reaches coming from: West Liberty, Tennessee Valley, Bridgewater, Charleston, Ferris State, Friends, North Carolina Wesleyan, Greensboro, Glenville State, Arizona Christian and Culver-Stockton.
Despite his injury status, Cooper is still gaining interest from: Virginia Union, Virginia Tech, Alderson-Broaddus, Shaw and West Virginia State. The surrounding stigma around Phoebus is that it’s difficult for the Phantoms to be recruited on an equal playing field as their counterparts. But with every year that passes, we see that more and more Phantoms are being recruited at the Division I level. Last year it was Tim Young (Howard), Damion Charity (Old Dominion) and Darrell Bryant (James Madison) and in 2017 it was Johnathon Gregory (Norfolk State) and Andre Jackson (Virginia State). Will Cooper be the next prospect to join the aforementioned Phantoms at the Division I level next year?
“What I have come to realize is that it’s not always about how big or small you are,” Cooper stated. “We are good a football team and I am absolutely sure anybody that plays for Phoebus can go play for any Division I, II or III program. It’s mostly about grades and how you’re doing on your tests and in the classroom.”
– Brandon Mitchell