Article

From college football obscurity to London limelight - Rams rookie Kupp showing no fear of big stage

23 October 2017 16:12

It's a long way from Cheney, Washington to Twickenham Stadium.

Indeed, it's 4,665 miles to be exact.

But on Sunday, a rookie who spent his collegiate career at a place most from outside the Pacific northwest of the United States would struggle to pick out on a map, starred as the Los Angeles Rams produced a demonstration of their playoff credentials with a crushing 33-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Wide receiver Cooper Kupp spent his collegiate career at Eastern Washington, a powerhouse in the Big Sky conference but still a relative outpost in the vast landscape of college football.

He finished his career at Eastern Washington with 6,464 receiving yards and 73 receiving touchdowns, both records in the history of the FCS, the second tier of college football.

Those incredible accomplishments were achieved away from the national spotlight, but the switch to the pressure cooker of the NFL has had no impact on a player who has continued to flourish.

Kupp's performance at the Combine led future Hall of Famer Steve Smith to label him the best receiver in the draft, but the Rams were still able to get him in the second round.

And he has already done plenty to justify Smith's assessment. Kupp leads all rookie wide receivers in catches and yards, quickly becoming an integral of a Rams offense rejuvenated under first-year head coach Sean McVay.

Throughout his fledgling career, Kupp has risen to every challenge put in front of him, so it should be no surprise he was able to perform on an international stage and acclimatise to a different environment and a different timezone.

In a further display of his growing rapport with second-year quarterback Jared Goff, Kupp had four receptions for 51 yards, but his key contribution came as he atoned for some earlier drops and put the finishing touches to an excellent Rams display with an 18-yard catch and run as Los Angeles improved to 5-2.

That score saw Kupp take a screen pass and jink his way through the defense with the help of some nice blocking to find the end zone for the third time in his rookie year.

Winning can brighten up any experience, but Kupp gave the sense he very much enjoyed his time across the pond and expressed a fondness for playing in the slight chill of the Twickenham wind, which will bear little comparison to the winters in Cheney, where the average low temperature for

October is just 36 degrees farenheit (2 celsius) and where the mercury will plunge to around 24 (-4.6 celsius) in the coming months.

"It's different for sure. Being over here, the place we stayed was incredible," Kupp told Omnisport in the locker room.

"It just felt really nice over here and the people have been great so I had really good time.

"In the winter [in Eastern Washington] it gets pretty cold, so this was nice, I enjoyed it, it felt good to me.

"To be able to come out here and perform like we did is a testament to how we handled the week and, if we do have to do it next year I'll be looking forward to it, hopefully I'll make a trip over the in the offseason and see it for myself."

Kupp's touchdown served of a perfect example of the elusiveness that, along with his impressive hands and route-running, saw him regarded as one of the better receivers in the draft.

But he was quick to shun any praise for getting into the end zone, adding: "We were able to make some plays down the stretch and obviously on that second-to-last drive guys were throwing some great blocks, you probably could have thrown anyone out there and they could have scored that touchdown."

His modesty is admirable but there can be no denying that Kupp is one of the key reasons why the Rams' offense has transformed from an ineffective uninspiring group to watch to one of the most exciting in the NFL.

If their revival results in a playoff berth, do not be surprised if the pressure of postseason football proves a breeze for a rookie who appears remarkably at ease regardless of stage or environment.

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