Evan Cooper has seen both sides of Matt Rhule – as one of his players and one of his assistant coaches. As a cornerback at Temple from 2005 to 2008, Cooper developed a close bond with Rhule, and eventually returned as part of his coaching staff in 2013. Since then, he's worked on both the operations and coaching sides of the game, and most recently helped Baylor's secondary finish third in the nation in interceptions as the program's cornerbacks coach.
Here are three questions with Cooper:
What's the biggest difference or change you've seen in your relationship with Matt Rhule from being one of his players to now being one of his coaches?
"I would say our relationship has grown stronger. He's a mentor, somebody I look up to. He's very smart, very thoughtful, very particular, very detailed. I try to take some of that stuff and add it to me. I want to add it to my game. He looks at me as somebody he can trust so he tells me a lot of beneficial things to help make me better at my craft. We have a pretty strong relationship, because we've been together for a long time. He gave me my first job. He actually told me he would never hire me because I was a terrible graduate assistant, then the rest is history. I've been with him ever since. He's a developer of people, whether it's players or staff, just people in general. He's going to be tough on you, but when he's tough on you, you know it's because he believes in you."
What's something you've learned from your time working in football operations that helps you be a better coach?
"As far as the recruiting part, really it's all the same. It's just relationships. If I go up to a random stranger on the street and try and criticize him, he'd probably take offense to it. If I go up to one of my close friends and criticize him, he'll know it's coming from a good place, so he'll listen. Just building that relationship or interacting with people. Interpersonal skills help especially with recruiting and coaching. There's a lot of carry over between the two. If I can show a person I care and it's not fake, but genuine, then they'll listen to the criticism. Coaching is a lot of criticism and how you relay messages and how much they listen to you and want to take in and do what you ask them to do. It's really all the same, it's just about people."
What's the No. 1 attribute your cornerbacks have to have and why?
"Speed. I believe you've got to have speed to play the position. You want to not give up big plays, and how do you do that? You have guys who can cover up some of the lapses with speed. I would also like guys with ball skills. Got to get the ball back for the offense."