Every once in a while, an athlete is lucky enough to be gifted in multiple sports. Unless they are a truly rare and special talents (see Jackson, Bo), they more often than not end up picking one for their professional careers.
This brings us to the case of Khiry Cooper, an NU football recruit for 2008 as a wide receiver, who also is talented enough on the baseball diamond to be drafted by the Los Angeles Angels organization. Cooper faces a choice between college football and professional baseball.
For Husker fans, the situation is reminiscent of a few fairly recent Husker football prospects.
According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Cooper had not yet made a choice as recently as Monday evening. He was checking all the right boxes, so to speak, and keeping his options open.
If he chooses to enroll at NU, he could play both sports as an amateur. Or he could sign with the Angels organization, most likely getting a six-figure signing bonus.
Selfishly, I admit that I would love to see Cooper in a Husker uniform. He's a quality prospect at a skill position. He was well regarded as a high-school player in Louisiana, and he was one of the latest additions to Bo Pelini's first class. He served as early proof that the coach knew how to source players out of that talent-rich state.
On the other hand, who can blame the kid for wanting to go the baseball route? He went in the fifth round, which is a big deal since the MLB draft selects more than 1,000 players. He could very likely get $100,000 or more just to sign his name in ink.
While minor-league baseball is a grind, it lacks the risks and physical demand that football creates—and he could pursue football after baseball if the career on the diamond doesn't pan out. Many NCAA football players have come out of minor-league baseball.
Heartbreak Hotel...Or Best of Both Worlds?
Pathetic as it sounds, Carl Crawford broke my heart a little. Crawford, a second-round MLB pick, chose baseball over being a member of NU's 1999 recruiting class.
Crawford has had a nice career since reaching the big leagues in 2002. While NU had another QB, Jammal Lord, in that 1999 class, every time I see Crawford do something highlight-worthy on TV, I can't help but think, "Man, that guy could have been a great option quarterback." I wonder if Frank Solich ever wonders the same thing.
Still, Cooper doesn't have to go that route. He could come to NU and get the best of both worlds, like former Husker and current Major League player Darin Erstad did. Erstad was a punter in football, so his best professional paycheck option was baseball—though Erstad was not as highly regarded as Cooper coming out of high school.
On the plus side for Cooper, NU's profile in baseball has improved greatly in the last ten years. The amount of quality coaching and exposure he'll get as a Husker baseball player would very likely be better than what Erstad received.
So, which will it be for Cooper—the Erstad route or the Crawford way? I don't think the kid can really go wrong by choosing either—though I know which I would prefer.