The defining moment of Graig Cooper’s career with the Miami Hurricanes was an extremely painful one.
Cooper suffered a gruesome knee injury as a junior in Miami’s 2009 Champs Sports Bowl loss to Wisconsin at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, thanks in large part to terrible field conditions at the Citrus Bowl.
Because this injury cost him a potentially monster senior season with the Hurricanes, Cooper is an all-time underrated Miami Hurricane.
Cooper led Miami in rushing yards his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons for head coach Randy Shannon and could have had an elite senior season for the Hurricanes if not for the injury.
Cooper ended his junior season with 2,218 yards rushing. At the time, Ottis Anderson was Miami’s all-time leading rusher with 3,331 yards.
Would a healthy Cooper have rushed for 1,114 yards as a senior to pass Anderson? It is very possible.
Instead, Cooper rushed for just 165 yards on 35 carries as he was obviously not at full strength.
Many thought Cooper would miss the entire 2010 season initially after the injury but he fought back to contribute to a running back group led by Damien Berry and Lamar Miller.
Cooper eventually had two separate stints with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL but acknowledged that he was never the same after the injury at the end of 2009.
Cooper’s combination of speed and power made him an elite running back who could easily break arm tackles and finish runs effectively.
He also had the ability to line up in the slot or out wide and catch the football out of the backfield. His touchdown catch against Florida State in 2009 helped the Hurricanes complete an epic come-from-behind victory in Tallahassee.
Jacory Harris to Graig Cooper 2009 pic.twitter.com/JH9DmlUakB— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) March 23, 2020
Where does Cooper rank amongst Hurricane running backs over the past 15 years? Only Duke Johnson leads him statistically on Miami’s all-time rushing list among players who have played for the Hurricanes since 2006.
You can make a strong argument that Cooper and Johnson are Miami’s top two running backs over the past 15 seasons.
We will always be left to wonder what could have been for Cooper had he not suffered that unfortunate injury against Wisconsin.