Troup’s Cooley helps anchor offensive line
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
He’s ready for one final ride.
Outside of a stretch of games where he was out of action with an ankle injury, Will Cooley has been a fixture on the Troup High offensive line since his sophomore season.
Cooley, a rising senior, will be back in his familiar position at center when Troup opens a new season on Sept. 4.
“I remember riding the bus from Long Cane Middle School, coming up here to practice,” said Cooley, reflecting on those days as an eighth-grader when he got to come to the high school to work out. “It’s been super cool being a part of this over the years.”
Tanner Glisson, who is in his sixth season as Troup’s head coach, is glad to know that Cooley will be back for another season.
“He’s a grinder. He gets after it,” Glisson said. “We’re just lucky to have him, and the kids respect him. There are no days off with him. He’s wide-open, 110 percent every single day.
Cooley is a member of a veteran offensive line that should be a strength of the team.
The only starting offensive lineman from last season’s team who graduated is Michael Irvin, who will play football and wrestle at Cumberland University (Tenn.).
“Losing Michael Irvin is a big deal for us, but we’ve hit the ground running,” Cooley said. “That relationship we have (on the offensive line) comes with experience.”
Other veterans on the offensive line include Royce White and Braxton Truitt, and senior Demetrius Heard is ready to step in and take on a starting role.
“I feel like chemistry is important. It all starts up front with us,” Cooley said. “If we have a good push, we’ll have a good play and keep everybody safe back behind us. That relationship is a huge deal. That’s been our big emphasis this offseason up front, to compensate for that loss of Irvin. Demetrius Heard is filling in great right now. He’s really impressing a lot of guys, and he’s coming along strong. It’s just going to come with experience.”
During the 2018 season when Cooley became a starter, he worked closely with then offensive-line coach Phillip Manning, and he developed an aggressive attitude that he’s never lost and will take onto the field with him this fall.
“As a whole offensive line, we try to maul people every play,” Cooley said. “Coach Manning really instilled that, and I try to bring that every day for the whole offensive line.”
After watching and learning as a freshman, Cooley got his opportunity to play as a sophomore, but he suffered a broken ankle during an early-season game.
Fortunately for Cooley, he was able to return and be a part of the most successful team in the history of the program.
The Tigers went 12-2 and reached the Class AAAA state semifinals, and Cooley was a starting offensive lineman throughout the playoff run.
“My recovery process wasn’t hard, it wasn’t bad,” Cooley said. “I had surgery in August, and I was back in 56 days.”
Cooley returned for his junior season entrenched as the starting center, and he and his fellow linemen helped Troup run for nearly 3,000 yards in 11 games.
Kobe Hudson, now a freshman on the Auburn football team, was the quarterback during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and he was one of the state’s most dynamic players as a passer, and a runner.
“We knew Kobe was going to do his thing, and we just had to keep up our end,” Cooley said.
Cooley appreciates the lessons he learned from Hudson, as well as some of the other team leaders from previous years.
“I’ve learned a lot of stuff from those guys, not just football skills, but leadership, how to do it off the field, how to do it on the field, all that stuff,” Cooley said. “They’ve been super-good mentors, and I still talk to a bunch of them.”
With Hudson now at Auburn, somebody else will be manning the quarterback position this season.
Among the candidates to take over at quarterback are some freshmen, as well as senior Marquavious Kelley, who played wide receiver last year.
“We’ve only been practicing for two months, and it’s been cool to see how all three of the freshman quarterbacks have continued to grow,” Cooley said. “And Marquavious Kelley who played receiver last year, he’s going to make an impact wherever he plays. He can play slot, quarterback, or wherever.”
Cooley and his Troup teammates will get the opportunity to face another team for the first time on Aug. 21 in a preseason game at Newnan.
Following another preseason game against Heard County on Aug. 28, Troup kicks off the regular season on Sept. 4 at Harris County.
Tanner Glisson is the only head coach Cooley has played for at Troup, and he’s fine with that.
Cooley knows his coach will always have his back, something that was evident during a game last season.
Cooley was ejected from last year’s season opener against Ridgeland, and he wasn’t the least bit surprised to see his coach charge onto the field and passionately support and defend him.
“I’ll go to war with him any day,” Cooley said. “The whole team will.”