‘I’m blessed to have this opportunity’
LONGMONT, Colo., -- Cooper Rothe wore a size-11 cleat when he went to San Diego to train in early January.
Fast forward two months, Wyoming's all-time leading scorer is now sporting a bronze tan and a size nine on the right foot that accounted for 342 points for Craig Bohl's Cowboys in his four-year career in Laramie.
"It's all about feeling the ball," Rothe smiled, standing on his old high school field in Longmont, Colo., on a chilly, snow-covered March morning.
Don't worry, it was weird for Rothe, too. But who is he to question his teacher. That guy is John Carney, who was a place kicker in the NFL for 23 seasons, tallying 2,044 points while kicking for nine teams.
That's more years than Rothe has been on this earth.
"I was really able pick their brain," Rothe said of Carney and current XFL kicker and 13-year NFL vet, Nick Novak. "I added a lot of strength to my core and got more flexible. I've added some power."
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Rothe said he kicked each Monday, Wednesday and Friday in sunny San Diego, booting 30 to 40 field goals per session. There was plenty of lifting and conditioning, too.
It's all in preparation for the most important job interview of his life. Tuesday, March 10, pro scouts from all over the country will embark on Laramie to evaluate Wyoming's senior class of football players.
Rothe, who went a perfect 4-for-4 in point-after attempts in the Shrine Bowl and added a 26-yard field goal, will get just a few opportunities to prove why he was considered one of the best place kickers in the country. Sure, teams have plenty of tape to pour through, but it's different when all eyes are on him, he said.
"I'm nervous and excited," Rothe said. "A life's worth of work is going to probably come down to 10 kicks and 3-to-4 kickoffs."
During his junior season at UW, Rothe was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist after converting on 16-of-17 field goals. He led the nation with a 94.1-percent success rate. That also earned him Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year.
As a senior, things didn't go as smoothly. Rothe uncharacteristically missed on seven of his 22 field-goal attempts. He also missed three point-after tries.
He had missed just one of those in his career up to that point.
Bohl always made it a point during his weekly press conferences to point out that field goal kicking wasn't all about the guy putting the boot to the ball. There's a snapper and a holder. A lot can go wrong with that trio, he would said.
Rothe passed Sean Fleming last November as the program's all-time leading scorer after hammering through his second extra point of the night during a 17-7 win over Border War rival Colorado State. Fleming's career spanned from 1988-91 and produced 324 points.
He hopes all the collegiate honors -- plus kicking in the elements 7,220 feet above sea level can present -- will help lead to a chance at a professional career.
"Half the guys I trained with have never kicked in the snow," Rothe laughed. "I'm hoping it shows that I can kick in places like Seattle, New England and other cold-weather spots."
Rothe said he has been contacted by at least a pair of NFL teams. He was asked not to specify which ones, but will host private workouts with all who come calling.
"I'm blessed to have this opportunity," he said. "Not everyone has been in this position. I just need to take full advantage."