From IUP to the NFL

Indiana University of Pennsylvania offensive tackle Ethan Cooper initially wasn't supposed to attend the NFL Scouting Combine, but he eventually made the most of his opportunity upon receiving an invitation.

"I thought he had a phenomenal workout in the field," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah maintained. "I thought he really helped himself."

Added NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock: "He's an interior mauler. He's a big, square dude that gets movement in the run game. I see him as a guard in the NFL."

Cooper, 6-foot-2 and 322 pounds, wasn't aware of the attention he was getting at first.

"My dad watched it," Cooper said. "He was telling me a little of it but I didn't hear all the details.

"I felt like I was doing well, I knew I was doing what I could do. But at the same time I didn't know how I stood compared to everybody else. Once I got home and regrouped and my dad showed me the actual combine (on DVR), I was like, 'Wow, I did separate myself.'"

The combine continued what has been an attention-getting offseason for Cooper, who started at tackle for IUP last season but has arrived at Steelers rookie minicamp as a guard.

Steelers' rookies take the field for rookie minicamp.

"I went to the NFLPA game (the Collegiate Bowl) out in California," Cooper explained. "I was a late add (to the combine). I was on the consideration list and then I was down in Florida training and I got an e-mail one day saying I was invited to the combine.

"I knew when I went to the combine I had to stand out as much as possible."

Cooper stood out to the Steelers to this degree: He's the only offensive lineman they added to the roster through veteran free agency, the draft or as an undrafted rookie.

That would suggest Cooper was a priority free agent in the immediate aftermath of the draft.

"II would say so," he allowed. "At the same time I still have to come here and prove myself like everybody else. I just came here to get this work in and just develop as a player the same way they did."

Cooper is seemingly coming from a lot further away than a tackle-to-guard prospect from Alabama.

But he's certain he can get to the NFL from IUP.

"It's really just a mindset," Cooper said. "Since Day One when I stepped on campus as a freshman I knew my ultimate goal was to make it to the National Football League. Every day for four years straight I made sure I put myself in the best situation to make it here.

"Dreams come true."

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