When Von Miller got traded to the Los Angeles Rams, Broncos fans panicked, wondering if anyone could step up to replace that hole. Taken in the seventh round in this year’s draft, nobody could have predicted it would be rookie linebacker, Jonathon Cooper.
In a game that sent shockwaves through the NFL last week, the Broncos managed to dominate the Dallas Cowboys. Cooper made a name for himself with his performance. He finished with two sacks, four tackles, including two for loss of yards, and two quarterback hits.
There was a time when Cooper wasn’t sure if he’d even make it to the NFL due to a heart condition. However, he’s persevered and is now on a mission to prove nothing will get in his way.
Pushing Through It All
Cooper grew up in Gahanna, Ohio. His mother, Jessica Moorman, who was 18, was set to meet with his would-be adopted parents. Two days before that date, she went into labor and then changed her mind and decided she would raise him as a single mother.
Cooper was born two months early. He needed feeding tubes and couldn’t leave the hospital for two months post-birth because he had a caved-in chest.
Cooper attended Lincoln High School.
During his freshmen year, Cooper collapsed on the court during a basketball game. He was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a heart condition that causes the heart to beat abnormally fast for periods of time.
Despite this, Cooper thrived on the football field and was ranked a five-star prospect by 247Sports going into college.
He was flooded with offers but ultimately committed to Ohio State, the school he had always dreamed of attending.
Cooper shared the field with future first-round NFL picks Nick Bosa and Chase Young at Ohio State, but managed to play in 45 games during his time at Ohio. He finished with 75 tackles and ten sacks.
Cooper was a two-time captain and was awarded the “Block O” jersey. That honor is bestowed to the player who displays character and selfless, player-driven leadership qualities.
Jumping In Heart First
As a teen, Cooper had two cardiac ablation procedures to help his heart maintain a normal rhythm. With those surgeries, Cooper and his doctors believed they had corrected his heart problems.
Two weeks before the 2021 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles requested Cooper have one more electrocardiogram test to prove that there wouldn’t be any issues.
A couple of days before the draft, his final ultrasound showed a rare form of Atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat usually only found in people above 60.
As NFL teams became informed of the news, Cooper’s draft stock immediately plummeted. Originally projected to be a third to fifth-round pick, suddenly, there was a question of whether or not he would even be taken.
On Day 3 of the draft, with just 20 picks left, Cooper received the call that the Denver Broncos had selected him as the 239th pick.
Three days after being drafted, he underwent three eight-hour ablations. If those ablations had failed, he would have had to get implanted with a pacemaker, which most likely would have ended his NFL career before it could even start.
Cooper was forced to miss both rookie minicamp and OTAs. He was not cleared to return to the field until Aug. 3.
Despite this, Cooper had some impressive performances in the preseason, with many declaring him the steal of the draft.
Cooper was behind Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Malik Reed at the start of the season on the depth chart. As injuries began to pile on, he eventually got his first start in Week 8 against the Washington Football Team.
Before his departure, Miller managed to make a massive impact on Cooper. On the topic of their time together, Cooper said, “Some of the conversations that we had were pretty deep, and I can’t thank him enough for all the things that he’s talked to me about, and all the things that he’s taught me. Even though our time was short, I enjoyed every moment of it.”
Cooper now has an opportunity to cement himself as the future of the defense. He’s already proven that he can overcome adversity, be a leader on and off the field, and be someone Broncos Country can get excited about.