By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 19, 2005
Chris Cooley wears pajamas around the Washington Redskins' practice facility in Ashburn. Well, they aren't actually pajamas. They're sweat pants masquerading as pj's. Ever since Cooley traced logos of such cheesy '80s metal bands as Quiet Riot and Poison on the fabric, they look like they belong to a wild-eyed, prepubescent kid ready for a sleepover -- rather than a wild-eyed, 23-year-old, rumbling professional football player.
"I got, like, 25 logos on them now of every '80s hair band you can think of -- AC/DC, Ozzy, all of 'em," Cooley said, as if his mother would be proud of such things.
"They're really cool, except they got stiff after a while."
"Yeah, I forgot to wash them for, like, a month."
Washington, meet the kid who did in Dallas.
Brute and brawn were a big part of last night's win at FedEx Field, where Joe Gibbs's team laid the worst beating on the Cowboys in series history. There was also boyish exuberance.
There was a young Cooley -- half fullback, half tight end, all sideburns and sugar highs. Cooley caught three touchdowns from Mark Brunell in the most dominating offensive performance since Gibbs returned in January 2004.
By the time the kid trying to grow a beard tumbled into the end zone for his third score with 12 seconds left in the first half, Dallas was indeed done. Cooley rose and tossed the ball into the stands, a pass meant for his younger brother, Tanner. He marched off to the locker room pumping his helmet and whooping and hollering, as if exhorting Quiet Riot to come out for an encore.
"This is the funnest game of my career," he said, unconcerned that funnest is not a word.
"I never scored three touchdowns before. Not at any level. This rates number one in my career. All time. Ever. Best ever."
Cooley is so green, his veteran teammate, Ray Brown, was 19 years old when he was born in 1982. At the time, Journey was actually considered a legitimate rock band.
Aside from the veterans, the kid was needed immensely last night. By the time the 35-7 shellacking was complete, Cooley, the second-year player from Utah State, had either beaten or laid out most every Cowboys defensive player. He was asked to describe how he managed to mow over Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman on his way to a 30-yard touchdown that sent FedEx Field into a tizzy and Washington off to a 28-0 halftime lead.
"I just kind of lowered my shoulder and ran right through him," Cooley said, standing with his hands in his football pants beside his locker-room cubicle. "I was surprised. I'm usually not fast enough to get away from anyone."
Cooley knew it was going to be a good day the moment he and Brian Kozlowski, Cooley's best friend on the team, cruised into the parking lot blaring the unforgettable sounds of Great White. "Me and Kos just turned (it) up as loud as we could and rolled down the windows when we rolled into the stadium. They must have thought we were idiots."
Or kids on way to the park for their routine NFC divisional rivalry.
Cooley caught six passes for 71 yards, running parallel with a rolling-left Brunell, who found Cooley twice for short touchdown throws. The third was plain perseverance, made possible by Cooley's ability to break a clutching grip and score from 30 yards. Cooley plays a hybrid position called H-back, a position made famous in Washington by Clint Didier. Like Didier, he blocks and rumbles for extra yards after a catch. Sometimes he finds a seam in the secondary and hauls in a 30-yard reception. In the largest game of the season, he did both.
Cooley has some Frank Wycheck in him, too. Wycheck, the former Maryland star, caught more than 100 passes from Steve McNair in Tennessee. He was reliable in short-yardage situations and part of the Music City Miracle ending. Cooley is too young to have a rsum like Didier or Wycheck. But if Santana Moss has emerged as Brunell's favorite deep threat, Cooley has become his number one underneath receiver, a virtual NFL newbie who has become a veteran's safety valve.
When Cooley removes his helmet, he barely resembles a rugged NFL player. Between the sandy-brown curls and the full, chubby cheeks, he could pass for Samwise Gamgee, Frodo's best friend played by Sean Astin in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Calling him a hobbit would be a bit much. But it's safe to say Cooley was either created by his parents or J.R.R. Tolkien. When someone asked Cooley if he had a nickname bestowed upon him by teammates, he thought long and hard last night.
"Oh yeah. In St. Louis, when I went out for the coin toss, they told me to introduce myself as Captain Chaos," Cooley said. "So I started shaking the Rams' hands, going, 'Captain Chaos, how ya' doin'. Captain Chaos, nice to meet you.' I'm kind of hoping it will stick if more people use it."
The more people Cooley runs over from Dallas en route to the end zone, the less he will have to worry about a nickname. Anyhow, for a kid who traces Ozzy and AC/DC on his sweat pants during off hours, for the kid who rumbles into the FedEx Field blaring Great White from his vehicle, well, Captain Chaos does not seem that much of a stretch.