Land of 10 has embarked on a series of “Next Generation” articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the class of 2017 signees. Land of 10 Iowa writers Scott Dochterman and Bobby La Gesse are hard at work visiting the Iowa incoming freshman class to show you more than 40-yard dash times and recruiting rankings. We recently talked with 3-star wide receiver Max Cooper, but before we bring you the full profile on the Waukesha, Wis., star here is a sneak peek at what you can expect.
WAUKESHA, Wis. — Max Cooper’s high school résumé and reputation compare favorably with another Iowa player who entered the program in 2013.
Cooper, a 6-foot, 175-pound wide receiver from Waukesha Catholic Memorial, lit up Wisconsin Division 3 opponents in his three seasons catching the ball. Last year he caught 50 passes for 1,024 yards and 17 touchdowns while leading the Crusaders to a state title. At times, defenses approached him with double coverage and he still shifted into big plays.
His pedigree is similar to that of Matt VandeBerg, who returns to Iowa for one more year after suffering a season-ending broken foot last fall. In his final season at Brandon Valley (S.D.) High School, VandeBerg caught 65 passes for 1,080 yards and 18 touchdowns.
As a 150-pound high school senior, VandeBerg was considered too light for most Division I programs. He accepted a grayshirt offer from Iowa and earned a scholarship shortly before the 2013 training camp. He played as a true freshman and has become a solid performer. VandeBerg has 106 career receptions and 1,302 receiving yards, ranking 19th and 27th, respectively, in Iowa history. VandeBerg received a medical redshirt last year.
Cooper has watched VandeBerg compete the last few years, and the veteran Hawkeye has left an impression.
“First of all, I think he’s an incredible player,” Cooper said. “He’s not the biggest guy out there. He might not be the fastest or the quickest. But he acts like it, and he acts like he has all the confidence in the world on the field. I know he does because he’s so consistent in catching with his hands and his hands are unbelievable. He is a good route-runner.
“He does everything right. He does all the small things, and that’s something I really strive to do because I know when I get to the next level I might not be the fastest, the quickest. But I want to do all the little things right. He really shows me how to do that.”
Cooper’s ascent began when he shifted from quarterback to wide receiver as a sophomore. In three varsity seasons, he caught 105 passes for 2,039 yards and 34 TDs. Cooper produced big plays with his 19.4 yards-per-catch average.
He committed to Central Michigan before his senior year after receiving minimal attention from major college coaches. That changed when Iowa assistant Seth Wallace made contact after last fall’s state championship game, in which Cooper caught 4 passes for 78 yards and a score.
“I think the maturation process was the most important,” said Matt Bergan, Catholic Memorial’s special teams coordinator, track coach and future athletic director. “As a freshman, when you come in at 134 pounds and 5-foot-7, you’re not on the radar. He was a little bit more of a late bloomer. He was always really fast and always really skilled.”
VandeBerg added 45 pounds at Iowa. Cooper has grown 5 inches and gained about 40 pounds during his high school career. His work ethic is a reason for his success, said longtime Catholic Memorial coach Bill Young, who will be inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame this weekend.
“We always knew that he was a real talented individual,” Young said. “He’s got great speed and the biggest thing, the transformation of Max, is the fact that he bought into weightlifting. He has really grown as a receiver that has great skills.”
VandeBerg and Cooper also possess similar intangibles. VandeBerg was an Iowa captain last year. Cooper received the most votes from his teammates in last year’s captain voting, Young said. VandeBerg was a Big Ten all-academic selection. Cooper carries a 3.93 grade-point-average.
“When I was on my official visit, I hung out with him on the second day for a lot of the time,” Cooper said. “He’s just a great guy outside of the field, too. He’s really a mature guy. He knows what he’s talking about. I’m really looking forward to having him as a mentor role when I get to Iowa.”
— Max Cooper (@max_cooper5) December 14, 2016