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Sports

College of DuPage alumnus Cooper picked by 49ers in NFL Draft

College of DuPage alumnus Fahn Cooper was playing LEGOs with his cousin when he got the call on where he’d be playing next. On the other end of the line, San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly told the offensive lineman from Ole Miss they were drafting him in the fifth round of the NFL draft (No. 174 overall).

Cooper said his mom, Caroline, ran around the room screaming. His dad sat in place and started crying.

All in all, not a bad birthday present for Cooper, who turned 23 on Saturday.

“It feels good,” Cooper said. “I’ve really just been trying to stay calm. My parents have been really, really excited and really emotional. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’m looking forward to working hard with my new teammates. I’m ready to accept the call.”

Cooper went into the draft with an open mind, anticipating that the team he least expected would call his number. As it turned out, one of the most likely destinations became the reality.

The 49ers showed perhaps the most interest of any team before the draft. He met with the 49ers at the NFL Scouting Combine. Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty attended the pro day at Ole Miss. And Cooper was invited to San Francisco to meet with the coaching staff.

“It’s a great city and a great staff,” Cooper said. “The coaches are all fired up about the season and the guys they got there. It’s a place with great tradition with their five Super Bowls. That’s a big deal. That’s an honor and a blessing to be part of that and wear the same jersey as some of the toughest guys who ever played football.”

Saturday represents the end of a long, winding journey to the NFL that started in Bowling Green, made a pit stop at College of DuPage and ended at Ole Miss.

In the past two seasons at Ole Miss, the 6-foot-4, 303-pound offensive tackle started all 26 games, and in 2015, he was selected as the Kent Hull Trophy winner, awarded to Mississippi’s top offensive lineman. 

The Pro Football Weekly draft guide ranked Cooper as the 16th-best offensive tackle in draft. PFW’s draft expert Greg Gabriel, who spent 32 years as an NFL Scout and Director of College Scouting, praised Cooper’s work ethic and leadership. 

“A legitimate tough guy with good strength, but he lacks the athleticism and range to play tackle in the NFL,” Gabriel wrote in the draft magazine. “Most teams will start him out there because of his length, but I would bet that he will end up inside. His traits are more like a guard than a tackle.”

Cooper said he’s open to playing any position on the offensive line. His experience with zone blocking should fit well with the 49ers’ style of offense. 

“My first goal is to get on the field,” Cooper said. “I’m going to work my butt off to do whatever I have to do to get on the field. If that’s guard or tackle or wherever they need me, I’ll do whatever I can to get on the field and, hopefully, help the 49ers win.”

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