Post Magazine: How Tanner Cooley became a D.C. sports insider

Chris Cooley plays for the Redskins. Tanner Cooley is ... his brother. So why is he becoming a celebrity in his own right?
Tanner Cooley
Monday, December 21, 2009; 12:00 PM

Tanner Cooley -- brother of the Redskins' Chris Cooley -- has hosted his own radio show, taken a crack at reality TV and hangs out with some of Washington's most elite athletes: How a guy who intended to stay behind the scenes ended up front and center in the D.C. sports world

Post reporter Annys Shin wrote about Tanner becoming a celebrity in his own right in a Washington Post Magazine cover story. Tanner Cooley was online December 21 to take questions and comments.

The transcript is below.


Tanner Cooley: Thanks for those joining me for the chat today. I would like to start by giving some background to this story.

This story came about after Dan Steinberg mentioned to his wife Annys that it may be interesting to write about what has happened with me over the last year in the DC sports scene. Dan is one of the first people I met here and I trusted that his wife would be as trust worthy and professional as he is. That is how the story began to materialize. Annys was great and came with me to many different events. I can't believe she was able to put it down on paper, but she did and I was pleased with the results.

So what happens now? I have turned in all of my applications and have started the process of selecting a school. This is and was always my end goal. I didn't start the website to do anything other than make some money before I started. It has been a unique experience that I am happy to have been a part of. I don't know what will happen with thecooleyzone after this year. But I know that I will have very little if any part in running it once school begins.

With all that said, thanks again for joining me in the chat and I look forward to answering your questions.


Des Moines, Iowa: Hey Tanner:

I will be on a plane Monday, but hope to come back to the chat archive. We chatted at one point about you considering medical school (DO/MD), are you still heading in that direction? If you have more questions, let me know. Good luck.


Tanner Cooley: I am still planning on it. I am working on filling out secondary applications and waiting for interviews. It is much more exciting to be doing this instead of writing blogs!


Washington, D.C.: Can you ever STOP being "Chris Cooley's Brother"? Is it something you can separate from other parts of your life?

Tanner Cooley: This is a great question and something that the title of the story doesn't help to accomplish. It is not something I am trying to hang on to trust me. But over the last year, I have been working exclusively with Chris so having the same last name has definitely helped identify to the fans and readers why something is what it is.


Arlington, Va.: Hey Tanner -- I thought the end of the story was awfully sad, in which you write your med school essay without mentioning Chris, only to be told that you really should. Was that upsetting? Expected?

Tanner Cooley: That was something that Annys must have taken notes about early on. She never saw my final essay in which there is one sentence about Chris mentioning what I have been doing with my time since graduating from college. But the essay is a personal statement and I wanted it to show schools who I am.


Penis-gate: OK, was it really an accident?

Tanner Cooley: This is another question that comes up very regularly. The picture of Chris with playbook sans underwear was absolutely an accident. It wasn't much fun to deal with but it is something that we can look back at and laugh about.


Washington, D.C.: Are you guys really doing that reality show the story mentions? Did Chris have to front the money?

Tanner Cooley: We are currently talking with the guys who presented the idea to us. One of them has become a close friend of mine and he has lots of great ideas. There has been no contracts yet and Chris will not have to use his own money to produce the show.


Future: It was interesting to read about someone who had the good sense to know that this lifestyle is a short-term thing and to make plans to return to being a contributing member of society in other ways. I feel like we always hear about the celebrity hangers-on who are trying to find a way to spin that role into fame of their own. Was that ever a goal for you?

Tanner Cooley: I don't really think of myself as a celebrity hanger-oner because starting the website was partly my idea. It wasn't something that was already out there that I just attached myself to.

Fame was never an intention nor did I ever expect any of what has happened. I feel like I am just the guy behind the scenes that makes what we do fun for the fans.

I am very excited to step into a different world over the next few years and look back at all of this as a great experience.


Snow day!: So what did you and Chris do over the weekend?

Tanner Cooley: Haha. Since me, my wife, and my mom were all snowed in, Chris picked us all up in his truck. We went to his house and played board games and ate hot soup. Picture is like Christmas day without any presents.


What if ...: Where do you think you'd be if Chris wasn't a Redskins player? Where do you think Chris would be?

Tanner Cooley: For me, it wouldn't change much. I wouldn't be involved in pro sports like I have been. I would just be one of thousands trying to become a doctor.

For Chris, he would be teaching school and coaching wrestling and football.


Washington, D.C.: Tanner, love your video and radio work on Chris's website and on JFK.

Question: who are your favorite media persons in the area and why.

Tanner Cooley: I don't have one favorite media person in the area. The sports media in DC have a very cool relationship with one another. I am just happy that they have been as kind to me as they are to each other. It is nice for me that I get to cover what they cover at a slightly different angle.


Philadelphia. Pa.: What is your own football playing experience? Can your brother get you a try out with the Redskins?

Tanner Cooley: I went to Utah State on a football scholarship and my career ended due to injury. I had three shoulder surgeries and even if I had a tryout with the Skins, I could never make it through what the players go through physically.


Logan, UT: Tanner, I once got pinned by you in wrestling. Did you ever beat your brother? I think he was undefeated.

Tanner Cooley: Haha. Chris and I were four years apart in high school so we never had a chance to wrestle in a real match. He was always about 30 pounds heavier than I was up until my sophomore year of college. And had we been the same age and weight, I think it would be a close match.


Washington D.C.: Chris Cooley or Fred Davis? (too obvious?) Lindsay Czarniak or Kelly Johnson? Bud Lite or Yueng Ling? Mike Wise or Tony Kornheiser? The Fan or 980? Wasatch Mountain Range or Washington? Med School or the Cooley Zone?

Thanks alot. Bill

Tanner Cooley: Chris Cooley, married, Yueng Ling, Wise, The Fan, Wasatch, and easiest one of all, medical school.


Anonymous: There have been plenty of premier athletes whose game has suffered due to their celebrity. You don't think Chris could fall down this path, do you?

Tanner Cooley: I feel like it is all up to the athlete. Up til now, Chris had never missed a game in the NFL and had only missed one practice. He seems to be one of the guys that can have fun off the field and still get all the work done on the field.

Not that I am comparing the two, but Peyton Manning is one of the biggest celebrities in the NFL. Has that changed his play on the field?


Ashburn, Va.: Has being a part of the media this past year and doing what you are doing now changed how you feel about going back to school?

Tanner Cooley: Doing what I have done over the past year has only taught me that I would much rather be in school than anything else. Though I have fun doing some of this stuff, there is no end and no real schedule which makes life hectic.


Washington, D.C.: So it seems like you're frequently on the sidelines, or at least hanging around with the team -- what's you take on how this season is shaping up? Morale?

Tanner Cooley: I am disappointed about how the season has turned out. I have now been a fan of this team for seven years. I feel like this season is by far the worst I have seen. With that said, I am very excited about what is happening now and what I foresee happening in the near future.


Falls Church: What was your thinking when the writer pitched this story to you -- why agree to the story about you if fame isn't what you're looking for?

Tanner Cooley: My initial thought was, "Weird, why would they want to write about me?" After that, I talked with my family and some media friends about it and they all said, "Why not?" So I let her do the story. I don't know if I would do it again, but whats done is done.


Other blogs: The story mentions that other athletes have asked you to run blogs for them too. How does that work, if you're not involved with them day-to-day the way you are with Chris.

Tanner Cooley: When other athletes come to me about starting a site/blog I immediately tell them that yes, I can build. What makes a site successful is that the athlete spend time updating it. For some guys, I give them the option of what Gilbert did by having someone ghost write for him. So far, the only site I have helped on is Mike Green's. We'll see what happens with the other sites, but it is something I enjoy doing and I would be glad to help other guys get theirs set up. Running it, that will be on them.


What kind of surgeon . . .: The article said you would like to be an orthopaedic surgeon. Would you like to specialize in a particular part (shoulder, knee, hip) or be a general surgeon?

Tanner Cooley: The reason I have an interest in orthopedics is because of my experience as both a patient and from working in a therapy clinic. Having to pick my speciality is about six years away so who knows what will happen between now and then.


Columbia Heights: So obviously your role comes with some neat perks (the cars, celeb sightings, etc.) What's been your favorite so far?

Tanner Cooley: My favorite part of what I do is being able to see that all athletes are just normal guys. Especially the guys in DC. Most of them are young, fun guys that get along well with each other. It has been a huge privilege for me to be able to be a small part of it and I wouldn't trade the relationships for anything.


Tradesvil,LE: There is already chatter about trading Chris, and using Fred Davis exclusively. What happens if Chris ends up a Jag, or a Panther?

Tanner Cooley: Speculation is going to happen. Fred is a great young player and had Chris stayed healthy, we may have never seen that. I don't know why fans instantly jump to the conclusion that Chris will be the one to get traded. I'm sure that if Fred keeps balling out, teams would offer more for him than they would for Chris.

But if he does go, he goes. He will continue to work hard and be a great tight end in a different city. This isn't what Chris wants and I'm not sure it is what the team wants but anything is possible.


Silver Spring, Md.: Do any of the other Redskins players have siblings or friends who are as involved as you are?

Tanner Cooley: DeAngelo Hall has a close friend working for him. He just moved here this year and has done a great job doing what he does. I wouldn't be surprised if you start seeing his face more than mine over the next year or so. Plus, he wants to get into athlete marketing.


If Chris DID get traded: would you follow him to whatever city? Or would that be the break-up point?

Tanner Cooley: The next stop for me is going to be where I decide to go to school. My application is in at all three in DC and it would be ideal to stay here for four more years.


Autographs ...: Why do you think people ask for yours?

Tanner Cooley: I'm not sure why fans ask for my autograph. It is interesting and I don't refuse to sign like the story said. It doesn't happen very often and I have signed my name for fans before.


Tanner Cooley: Thanks again for chatting with me. Like I told many of you, the website was never going to be my last stop though it has been fun. You can expect guest posts written by me from time to time, but in August, I will be just another anonymous blender inner. Happy holidays and Go Skins.


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