Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP will play his senior season before embarking on professional career
Eagle Nation is rejoicing -- Cooper Kupp will play his senior season for the Eastern Washington University football program.
Amid speculation that he would leave early and pursue opportunities in professional football or at another school, Kupp announced Monday (Nov. 30) he will play his senior season for the Eagles. The record-breaking Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP made his announcement via a video distributed to members of the Eagle Athletic Fund, and also via his Twitter account (@CooperKupp).
“I’ve decided that I want to spend the 2016 season as an Eagle and be part of something great here at Eastern Washington,” he said. “I believe that God has a plan for me and a great plan for Eastern Washington, and I want to be a part of that. I look forward to this off-season and getting Eastern Washington back into the National Championship.”
“I thank everybody for their support for us, and I look forward to seeing everybody out on the Red in 2016. Go Eags.”
Additionally, Kupp will get a chance to play one more season with his younger brother Ketner Kupp, a linebacker for the Eagles as a true freshman this season. Ketner played in all 11 Eastern games as a true freshman, finishing with 19 tackles and an interception.
“I thank Eagle Nation for their support of me and all the Eagles here at Eastern Washington,” Kupp added. “The successes we experienced this year and in years past, we share with them as well. I want to express my gratitude.”
Kupp has helped Eastern win 29 games overall and 20 in the Big Sky Conference in the past three seasons, with outright Big Sky Conference championships and NCAA Football Championship Playoff berths his freshman and sophomore seasons. But the way the 2015 season ended – a three-game losing streak and final records of 6-5 and 5-3 – left him wanting more.
“We’re excited to not only get such an outstanding student-athlete like Cooper back for another year, but we are grateful to have such an amazing leader and presence in our locker room return for his senior season,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who was notified by Kupp earlier Monday. “I’m excited just as much for what he brings to our program as a person. His play on the field speaks for itself, but all the little things and intangibles he provides are what makes it exciting to be have him here for another 365 days.”
Baldwin and the Eagles will actually get a bonus day too, since 2016 is a leap year. But besides the off-season work ahead, the date circled on EWU calendars is Sept. 3, 2015, when the Eagles open the season at Washington State. In three career games against Pac-12 opponents, Kupp has caught 28 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns – including Autzen Stadium records of 15 catches for 246 yards against Oregon on Sept. 5, 2015.
Eastern follows that with games against a pair of teams playing Big Sky schools this week in the NCAA Football Championship Playoffs – North Dakota State and Northern Iowa. The Bison host Montana this week, while Portland State hosts UNI, which earlier this season edged Eastern 38-35 on Sept. 12 in Waterloo, Iowa.
More About Cooper Kupp and his Honors, Records and Accomplishments . . .
In 2015, the junior became only the second wide receiver in 42 years to win the Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP Award, and continued a long legacy of Eagles to win the award at the same time. Eastern players have now won the honor 11 times in the last 15 seasons, and 12 times overall.
A shoo-in to become a three-time first team All-America selection in 2015, Kupp is one of the top candidates to win the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Award which will be announced in January. Kupp was the 2013 recipient of the Jerry Rice Award presented to the top freshman in FCS.
Through his junior season, Kupp has established eight Big Sky Conference records, as well as 17 school marks and seven NCAA Football Championships records. His 122.4 average reception yards per game is currently a FCS career record, while his other six FCS records were set during his freshman season. His 114 catches this season broke the previous league record of 112, and ranks eighth all-time in FCS history. His average of 10.4 catches per game was also a league record (sixth all-time in FCS), to go along with six career marks he set in just three seasons – all ending with first team All-Big Sky accolades.
The 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., led FCS in five categories – receptions, receptions per game (10.4), reception yards (1,642), reception yards per game (149.3) and touchdown receptions (19). The players closest to him in FCS were eight catches, 298 yards and four TDs behind him, and in the league the next-best player for catches and yards was teammate Kendrick Bourne (73-998).
Kupp even passed for a pair of touchdowns this season and had another via punt return, giving him 58 total touchdowns scored and 60 accounted for in his 39-game career (all as a starter). In just three years, he already ranks second in FCS history in touchdown catches (56, two behind the record), second in reception yards (4,764, 486 behind the record) and fourth in receptions (311, 84 behind the record). All three marks are Big Sky records, and he also established a new league record for average catches per game (7.97), which also ranks third in FCS history.