It is only right that Cooper Kupp gets back to the Super Bowl, only right that Craig and Karin Kupp get to watch their son play in one.
Cooper Kupp wasn’t one of the two best wide receivers in the NFL three years ago when a torn ACL left him an anguished sideline Super Bowl LIII spectator for the Rams’ 13-3 loss to the Patriots. He is now.
Craig and Karin Kupp didn’t make the trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII. They will be making this one from Yakima, Wash., to SoFi Stadium for Super Bowl 2022.
“We just told Coop that you’re gonna be back there, and we’ll go when you’re playing,” Craig Kupp told The Post.
The football gods were just enough to deliver Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp and the Rams, and on Super Sunday, watch the Kupps runneth over with pride.
“I think for our family, this is much more exciting for Coop being able to participate,” Craig Kupp said.
You see, these Super dreams also belong to the parent or parents who watched how it all started for their boy.
“A real skinny kid,” Karin Kupp recalls, and laughs as Craig laughs along with her. “Who was a lot smaller than everyone else. But in his mind, he was the best football player out there, not in an arrogant way at all. But in his mind, he was the best football player out there.”
The skinny little boy with the big dreams was 9.
“His dream was to play for USC or Stanford,” Craig Kupp said. “And then when eighth grade started coming around, that’s where his mind expanded and where that drive to be a pro football player and to be a Hall of Famer, that type of mentality and those kinda thoughts developed around that age.”
Just look at him now: 6-foot-2, 208-pound machine, a rare package of athleticism and brains and savvy and relentless competitiveness who won’t soon forget being forced to prove everyone who overlooked him wrong at Eastern Washington.
“Missing that Super Bowl, that’s one of the hardest things I’ve been through,” Cooper Kupp said. “The conflict it creates in you when you are both cheering and pulling for your guys … but you know that every step of the way, every time they do succeed, it just hurts you that much more because you want to be a part of it as well. And so it’s just that conflict within you that’s both equally wanting them to succeed and do it, but also wanting to be there and knowing that you can’t be a part of it, like you want to at least. That’s a very difficult thing to go through.
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“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to get that perspective of the importance of grasping onto your guys, grasping onto the people that have made it so important and enjoying every moment with those guys. I carry that perspective with me of enjoying this process, enjoying the moments, enjoying each day I get to come in here and prepare for this game.”
He became the first player in 16 years and fourth overall to capture the receiving triple crown: 145 receptions, 1,947 yards, 16 TDs. He joined an elite club that features Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992) and Steve Smith (2005). He nearly toppled Calvin Johnson’s single-season record (1,964 yards).
“Speed is a luxury. Quickness is a necessity,” Cooper said.
Some are never the same after they tear an ACL.
“At no point was there any doubt in my mind that I was gonna come back and be better than I was before,” said Cooper, who wears No. 10 and he is The Perfect 10. “I felt like I had been given an opportunity now to rebuild myself exactly how I wanted to. I could teach myself to run the way that I wanted to run. I could run routes the way I wanted to run routes, I could cut the way that I wanted to cut, eliminate any bad habits and be able to move into a place where all that stuff is as efficiently and dialed in as I possibly make it.”
There are many more layers to his greatness. He makes every route look the same for starters. He loves watching film with Matthew Stafford. He has an unwavering faith. Adversity doesn’t make him blink.
“Perseverance is an incredible trait to have,” Cooper said. “Having perseverance in this world I think’ll get you a long ways.”
Craig and Karin met at Pacific Lutheran University. He was a 6-foot-4 quarterback. She was an All-American soccer captain. They were engaged in 1990, right after Craig was drafted by the Giants in the fifth round, cut before the season started, and married in March 1991.
Craig played in one NFL game, with the Phoenix Cardinals, was briefly a backup in 1991 to Steve Beuerlein in Dallas when Troy Aikman suffered a knee injury before he was allocated to the World League of American Football. His NFL dream — which began as a first- or second-grader inside Tulane Stadium where his father, Jake, a guard and tight end, was nearing the end of his 12-year NFL career as a Saint — ended in regret in 1992 for not staying and learning his craft with the Cowboys..
“I just lost confidence,” Craig said, “and it was just something that I’d never experienced before.”
All these years later, he experiences watching his 28-year-old son play in the Super Bowl.
“My parents have just been amazing in terms of their support for me throughout my entire life,” Cooper said. “I didn’t have to work a summer job. … They said, ‘Look, we’ll take care of that, we just want you to get ready to pursue whatever it is that you want to pursue.’
“My dad never eats on game day or anything like that, so I told him, ‘It’s just another game, don’t get too worked up or anything like that.’ But it’s gonna be really cool.”
Karin: “I get nervous when Cooper has to do punt returns. I don’t even like to watch it sometimes, I’ll even turn my head.
“Craig’s usually the one that we have to force him to eat something so he didn’t pass out during the game.”
This game day will be no different in one regard: “I send him a real simple text in the morning,” Craig said. “let him know I love him. Want to make sure his mind’s keeping football fun, that’s when he’s at his best.”
Not to worry — Cooper Kupp always is.