Mr. Cooley's Lesson Plan
Add another line to Chris Cooley's résumé: tight end, blogger, philanthropist and ... artist?
The Redskins star is giving $25,000 college scholarships to local students -- one from each of eight area schools -- and kicked off his drive yesterday with a surprising revelation. Cooley said he planned to be an art teacher before football came calling and credits his education, not his brawn, for his success.
"It was always really important to me," he told us. "That's part of my deal." At Logan High School in Utah, Cooley was a National Honor Society student with a 3.8 GPA, along with being a top wrestler and football player. He went on to Utah State (not a football powerhouse) expecting to become a teacher or coach ... then he played a few great games, was spotted by pro scouts and drafted by the Redskins in 2004.
Now he's a 26-year-old millionaire convincingly preaching the benefits of not being a dumb jock. Cooley began his three-day high school tour at Fairmont Heights in Capitol Heights and Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring, where he presented a $5,000 check to each principal for academic programs and then launched into his homemade PowerPoint presentation. Wearing jeans, a shirt and a zippered jacket, he told the students about how he wanted to be Denver QB John Elway growing up, the life lessons he learned from teachers and how his academic skills helped impress coaches in his pro career.
He clowned around writing the giant checks and happily posed for pictures but couldn't be coaxed by students to do a touchdown dance. "I don't dance," he told them with a grin. "I refuse."
The Redskins and the D.C. College Success Foundation are helping Cooley select the eight students who will receive the scholarships; he's responsible for raising or giving $200,000 this year, plus an additional $40K for the schools' academic programs. That's why he finally completed some of those unfinished canvases around his house -- he's auctioning off more than 20 of his paintings, drawings and pottery pieces in May for the fund.
Cooley said he hopes this will be the start of a multi-year program, and he told the kids he expects to be sticking around Washington for a long time: "I do not think I'll play for anyone else, ever."
The Reliable Source
February 18, 2009; 4:14 PM ET
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