Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper has played many positions throughout his football career. Recruited as a safety to the University of South Carolina, Cooper then transitioned to receiver and at times quarterback throughout his three seasons.
But now in his second year with the Rams, it is his role as a specialist that has stood out.
"It's a big growth [from last year to this year]," Cooper said Tuesday. "Everybody on special teams takes a great amount of pride in what they do in that phase. We have the right guys back there, so I give a lot of credit to them for opening up holes, especially in the wedge — they do a great job of kicking off whoever is in the way and I do my job and run."
Cooper, who worked as a rotational returner for the Rams in his rookie season, has solidified his role as the primary kickoff returner through seven games this season. The wideout currently leads the league in kickoff returns (16) and return yards (494) and is also second in average yards per return (30.9).
Overall, Cooper has put up a string of impressive performances, beginning with a 66-yard kickoff return against Dallas in Week 4. Then in the Week 6 contest against the Jaguars, Cooper returned the opening kickoff a league high of 103 yards for a touchdown.
The contest marked the first time a Rams player has returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 2005. The outstanding return earned Cooper the honor of NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, something the former South Carolina standout took a lot of pride in.
"It's a great accomplishment," Cooper said. "I thank the Lord for putting me in position to do this. And I give a lot of credit to the kick return team. We put a lot of work into this week-in and week-out, and they're a big part of that."
In addition to his duties as a kickoff returner, Cooper has seen his role as a specialist expand to punt returner. After wide receiver Tavon Austin struggled to field punts in the first five games, Cooper took over the role. So far, the wideout has fielded six punts for 47 yards.
Though Cooper says he "absolutely" feels comfortable returning punts, he acknowledged there was still a lot to work on.
"It's been pretty cool, nothing I've really made a big deal about," he said. "They gave me the job after Tavon had his problems back there, but I've treated it pretty well, made some catches, and had some pretty good punt return yards last week. So we're going to keep getting better at that phase."
And while his role as a receiver has been more reserved this year, Cooper is proud of what he has accomplished on special teams. Throughout the next nine weeks, he said he looks forward to doing his part to help he Rams continue to "put complete games together."
"You can always get better at anything," he said. "But really [for me] it's just continuing to do my job as a punt returner and kick returner and keep making the most out of all the opportunities I get. Making sure to get a lot of return yards in both phases and score some more touchdowns for punt return and kickoff returns."