By Hilary Winter
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Khiry Cooper could give the average college student a few tips on time management. Not only does he have to balance his time between the Nebraska baseball team, school and a social life, Cooper has to make time for football as well.
A two-sport athlete at Nebraska, the junior from Shreveport, La., excels as an outfielder for the Huskers in the spring, while he spends his time as a wide receiver for the football team in the fall. Even with such a demanding and time-consuming schedule, Cooper always knew that he wanted to pursue both of his athletic passions.
"Coming out of high school I knew I wanted to play multiple sports," Cooper said. "I wish I could play three, but it's virtually impossible in college. I knew if I had the opportunity I would do it."
Cooper has entered his junior season with the baseball team by filling the void left by departed senior D.J. Belfonte in center field. As a sophomore he played in 30 games and improved his batting average to .258. Before even stepping foot on the campus of the University he was selected in the fifth round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2008 MLB Draft, but elected to play both football and baseball at Nebraska. He is the highest draftee to play baseball at Nebraska since Turner Gill, who was a second-round pick in 1980, and is the first true multi-sport athlete in baseball and football at NU since Darin Erstad in the mid-1990s.
He makes no bones about it, while his football teammates are busy preparing for spring practices, he is over at Haymarket Park practicing with the baseball team. In the fall when he is in middle of a grueling football schedule, his baseball teammates are participating in fall practices. The sacrifices he has had to make are not easy, but he admits that he would trade his experiences for anything else.
"My freshman year was pretty tough with balancing, school, homework and a social life," Cooper said. "After I got past that it was alright. Time management is one of the biggest issues. In the fall I'm with the football guys and don't get a lot of time to swing the bat. I come over here in the spring and don't really have time to go over to football. You just kind of pick and choose your battles. During baseball season I'm with baseball and during football season I'm focused on football."
Cooper has learned that it takes many things to be successful at both sports, but most of all, it takes the right perspective and motivation to stay grounded.
"Just keeping my perspective on God," Cooper said. "I know with him all things are possible. With that perspective it helps me not get overwhelmed with too many things. It's just a lot of things like that. It's all about keeping my perspective and keeping my head right."
One thing that truly helps him succeed is the support of football coach Bo Pelini and baseball coach Mike Anderson. Cooper says that each of them truly supports him in his efforts to be a two-sport athlete and that he couldn't succeed without their understanding and support.
"When I'm with football, Coach Anderson always asks how things are going," Cooper said. "I saw Coach Pelini a few weeks ago and he asked how my swing was. It's not one of those things where they're pulling and tugging at me. It's been a blessing because they've been really supportive."
He admits that there is nothing like gameday at Memorial Stadium in the fall. With the sea of red roaring, he can't help but smile when thinking about running out of the tunnel. The same smile returns when he talks about coming from behind to sweep the series over then-No.5 UCLA and the fans that braved the cold to cheer on the Huskers.
"(The fan support) really surprised me," Cooper said. "Obviously I expected the cold weather, but just to see the fan support within the cold weather really surprised me. Days when it's cold out, but you have a good turnout, it gets you motivated as a player to know you have fans behind you."
Those fans are the same ones cheering for him whether he is scoring touchdowns or making plays in the outfield. What it comes down to is his desire to succeed and lead as a two-sport athlete at Nebraska, guiding the football team to success and the baseball team to national prominence.