Hunkie Cooper Super Dooper Indeed
July 27, 2012
LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - Former UNLV standout and current local high school football coach Hernandez "Hunkie" Cooper has been named as the "5th Greatest Player in Arena Football League History" by the league.
The AFL's Silver Anniversary Committee has announced one selection each week as its counts down the 25 greatest players as part of celebrating the sport's kickoff a quarter-century ago.
Cooper, who is currently is head coach at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas, came to UNLV from his native Texas after winning a national junior college title and quickly became the ultimate "Slash" player for new head coach Jim Strong. Cooper, in fact, played no less than six positions as a Rebel: quarterback, receiver, cornerback, running back, punt returner and kickoff returner - not to mention booting some third-down quick kicks and covering returns on special teams. Named first team All-Big West Conference as a specialist both of his years at the school, Cooper also earned the unusual distinction of being a league player of the week selection at two different positions (running back in 1990 and quarterback in '91).
After graduating from UNLV, he dabbled in the Canadian Football League before trying out for the Arizona Rattlers and eventually becoming arguably the AFL's greatest-ever two-way player. Cooper spent his entire career with Arizona and led the club to five ArenaBowls, winning two crowns. During his playing career he also spent two seasons as a member of his alma mater's announcing crew as he was a radio analyst for the Rebels alongside play-play-play man Tony Cordasco in 1998-99. From the AFL's official release: There may not be a player in AFL history more synonymous with a single franchise than Hunkie Cooper is with the Arizona Rattlers.
Signed as a fourth-string wide receiver, Cooper shot up the depth chart, making the Rattlers - and the rest of the League - aware he was a special player. He earned League MVP and First-Team All-Arena honors as a rookie in 1993 after collecting a career-high 91 receptions for 1,214 yards and 19 touchdowns, as well as setting the single-game franchise record for receptions with 19 in a game against Tampa Bay. The following season, as quarterback Sherdrick Bonner's favorite target, Cooper helped the Rattlers to their first ArenaBowl appearance - a 36-31 upset victory over the Orlando Predators.
The 5-foot-9 player earned First-Team All-Arena honors again in 1995 as an offensive specialist; however, in 1996, he returned to his Ironman roots, becoming a receiver and linebacker, in addition to returning kicks for the Rattlers. In his first season playing all three phases of the game, Cooper earned his third First-Team All-Arena nod in four years. He earned Ironman of the Game honors in ArenaBowl XI, returning a kick for a touchdown and intercepting a Kurt Warner pass for another score, as the Ratters defeated the Iowa Barnstormers 55-33.
Cooper continued to flourish with the Rattlers into the new millennium, earning back-to-back Ironman of the Year awards in 1999 and 2000. In 2001, Cooper was named First-Team All-15th Anniversary as a receiver and linebacker and from 2002 to 2004, helped the Rattlers to three consecutive ArenaBowl appearances.
A quadriceps injury in 2005 forced Cooper into retirement after 12 seasons in Arizona. He left the game with nearly 9,000 receiving yards to go with 196 tackles and 15 interceptions, seven of which were returned for scores. He remains the League's all-time leader in combined kick return yards (11,499) and postseason all-purpose yards (3,768).
He was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2011.
25 Greatest Players in AFL History
The League's Silver Anniversary Committee will continue to countdown its list of the 25 Greatest Players in AFL History with the announcements of Players No. 3 and 4 during Conference Championship Week and the Top 2 at ArenaBowl XXV in New Orleans on August 10.
5. Hunkie Cooper 6. George LaFrance 7. Sherdrick Bonner 8. Clint Dolezel 9. Sam Hernandez 10.Damian Harrell 11.Sylvester Bembery 12.Stevie Thomas 13.Kenny McEntyre 14.John Corker 15.Dwayne Dixon 16.Kurt Warner 17.Bob McMillen 18.Mark Grieb 19.Darryl Hammond 20.Alvin Rettig 21.Durwood Roquemore 22.Chris Jackson 23.Ben Bennett 24.Clevan Thomas 25.Gary Mullen