With His Play, and His Antics, Cooley Entertains

Redskins tight end Chris Cooley earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season with 66 receptions for 786 yards and eight touchdowns.
Redskins tight end Chris Cooley earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season with 66 receptions for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell isn't quite sure which Chris Cooley he's going to get when he comes to work. The Redskins star tight end is known for having a somewhat offbeat personality (see: spandex shorts, blog-driven beard-growing contest).

"It's often what day you catch him on," Campbell said, laughing. "Some days he's quiet, some days he's hyper, and I don't know what. Like he had too much caffeine, he's wearing all these crazy clothes. You never know what you're going to get out of him each and every day when it comes to his personality."

As he enters his fifth year in Washington, Cooley, despite his sometimes goofy antics, will be one of the leaders of a team aiming to get back to the playoffs under first-year head coach Jim Zorn. And while he doesn't necessarily fit the bill of what a leader may look like, Cooley's work ethic and drive don't go unnoticed.

"I think he gives everything he's got, he loves to play," Zorn said. "I think Chris challenges himself every day. He's quite a guy because he's a very good athlete but wants to get better each time. He's thinking things through of how he can do it better when he gets out on the field. And he just gives everything he's got."

Since entering the league in 2004 as a third-round draft pick out of Utah State, the 26-year-old has developed into one of the Redskins most beloved players, both on and off the field.

Cooley has solidified himself as one of the NFL's top tight ends, finishing fifth in the league at his position in receptions (66) and yards (786) in 2007, and third with eight touchdowns. He also earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Meantime, his candid personality has endeared him to fans across the nation. He pens a popular blog on which he recently campaigned to find a fanatic's lost -- or stolen -- tomahawk (and succeeded), makes appearances on a popular morning radio show, and this summer generated headlines with his outspoken nature, critiquing training camps and rookie contracts. (He wrote that, "When someone can jump into the league and earn more than [a veteran] without playing a single down, it's hard to stomach.")

For Cooley, it wasn't a matter of making news as much as just being himself no matter the venue, he said.

"Because of the nature and popularity of this game, if I can just be myself and show who I am, I think people will like that," Cooley said. "I'm really not concerned if people are down on me or not or what people's opinions are. I think what we do is entertain people. And whether I make you happy or mad or whether you like me or not, if I entertain you or if I create something where you're excited about football, all in all, I think that's good for me and good for the sport."

The journey to this point has moved quickly, he said, chuckling slightly when asked if it was weird to be considered a veteran at his age.

"It's been fast. I played four years. I can't believe this is my fifth year," Cooley said. "It really does feel like I just got here, and then at the same time there's so much I've put in and so much I've invested in this team that I guess it's not strange to be called that."

As he continues to grow into one of the league's more recognized names, Cooley said he continues to be overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into being a professional football player.

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