"He was a little bit tougher. If he had to run a kid over to get to the bag, he'd do that, and that mindset comes from football, in my opinion. But he was never problematic."
Cooper was the guy running downfield with his running back, blowing up tacklers. He was the guy who was once challenged to kick a football 15 yards past the field and into some neighboring trees and refused to leave after practice until he did it.
"He got it into the woods," Jalazo said, "but he couldn't get it into the woods consistently. Riley wanted to keep doing it until he could kick it in there every time."
But then there was the temper that got him into trouble. Cooper once punched his fist through the window of a BMW in high school, and the injury kept him out of his senior season of baseball. He was charged with criminal mischief, but, reportedly at the request of the victim, the charges were dropped.
Cooper declined the Phillies' offer and went to the University of Florida to play football and baseball. His parents wanted him to go to college to mature and grow. After winning two national championships, Cooper was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Eagles, who were hoping to cash in on his immense gifts.
Cooper is a big, strong target who has deceptive speed. He's a solid blocker and brings attitude to the field. But for the first three seasons of his career, he displayed his vast skills only during practice and couldn't carry it over to games.
"What he's doing now is shocking, to be honest with you," said a longtime NFL executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "To this point, he has shown things he previously wasn't able to show."
Is it opportunity? Added motivation to prove himself? Vick said he always saw great potential in Cooper. When the receiver was a rookie, he spent the entire 2010 preseason with Vick, who called him his "go-to guy." But they never really meshed together on the field. It wasn't until Vick injured his hamstring in October that Cooper finally started putting up big stats with second-year quarterback Nick Foles.
Cooper caught four passes for a career-high 120 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6. He had three touchdowns and another career high with 139 yards three weeks later against the Oakland Raiders.
"Sometimes, you just click with guys, and, sometimes, it takes a lot of time to get comfortable with one another," said former NFL quarterback Mark Brunell, an ESPN analyst. "It may take a year or two years to really get to the place where there's a real connection there. Nick and Riley haven't been together that long, yet they're able to do some pretty special things. What's happening in Philly is kind of fun to watch."
Eagles receiver Jason Avant said Cooper looks up to Foles and the type of person he is.
"Just the way he lives his life," Avant said of the quarterback. "If they go somewhere, Nick is a little bit different. He doesn't drink or do certain things. I think he's a positive influence for him in a lot of different areas."
Avant said that ever since Cooper was a rookie, he had a reputation for working hard and having a temper that needed to be controlled. In the heat of competition, Avant said, Cooper was "liable to say anything."