Cowboys Return 18 Starters, Including 9 on Offense, 8 on Defense and 1 on Special Teams
AJ Cooper enters his second season at Wyoming as the Cowboys’ defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator. He came to Wyoming after serving as a member of the North Dakota State coaching staff the previous eight seasons. His coaching career followed an outstanding playing career for the Bison.
In 2014, Cooper coached First Team All-Mountain West Conference defensive end Eddie Yarbrough. Yarbrough will return for his senior season in 2015.
From 2011 through 2013, Cooper helped NDSU to a 43-2 (.956) overall record and a 22-2 (.917) Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) mark on way to its three consecutive FCS national titles. The 2013 NDSU squad became the first undefeated (15-0) FCS National Champion since Marshall went 15-0 to win the 1996 title. That 15-0 record by the Bison also set a North Dakota State school record. NDSU extended its winning streak to 24 consecutive games with the 2013 FCS Championship. That tied both the FCS and NDSU records for consecutive victories. The University of Pennsylvania set the FCS record of 24 consecutive wins from 1992-95. Montana later tied the record from 2001-02. The NDSU record was originally set from 1964-66.
As the defensive ends coach at North Dakota State, Cooper helped the Bison rank No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense for three consecutive seasons (2011-13), holding opponents to only 12.7 points per game in 2011, 11.5 points per game in 2012 and only 11.3 points per game in 2013.
The 2013 Bison defense also ranked: No. 3 in the FCS in total defense (255.9 yards per game); No. 2 in the nation in pass efficiency defense (97.59 rating); No. 3 in rushing defense (91.3 yards allowed per game); and No. 8 in passing yards allowed (164.6 yards per game).
In addition to leading the nation in scoring defense in 2012, NDSU: led the nation in total defense (234.5 yards allowed per game); was No. 1 in fewest first downs allowed (12.67 per game); ranked No. 2 in pass defense (140.6 yards allowed per game); and ranked No. 4 in rushing defense (93.9 yards allowed per game).
In addition to coaching the defensive ends, Cooper served as NDSU’s football camp and clinic director.
Prior to becoming the defensive ends coach in 2009, Cooper worked with the offensive line and tight ends as a student assistant and graduate assistant with the program from 2006-08.
Prominent players who Cooper coached at North Dakota State include: Coulter Boyer, who in 2011 earned Third Team All-America honors as a defensive end from Beyond Sports College Network and Honorable Mention All-America honors from College Sports Journal. Boyer was also an All-MVFC First Team honoree in 2011 and was a Second Team selection in 2010. He finished his career ranked No. 4 in school history in career sacks, with 27.5. Cooper coached defensive end Cole Jirik, who was a Second Team All-America selection by College Sports Madness in 2012. Jirik also earned Second Team All-MVFC honors in 2012, and concluded his career ranked No. 5 in Bison history in career sacks (26.0). A third NDSU defensive end who Cooper coached and went on to earn All-Conference recognition was Kyle Emanuel, who was a Second Team All-MVFC selection in 2013 and an Honorable Mention All-MVFC honoree in 2012.
An outstanding tight end for the Bison in the 2004 and 2005 seasons, he earned Honorable Mention All-America honors from the Football Gazette in ‘05. He caught 24 passes for 473 yards (19.7 yards per catch) and scored four touchdowns as a senior. He was selected First Team All-Great West Football Conference as a senior, and also earned All-Northwest Region honors.
Following his college playing career, Cooper signed as a free-agent contract with the Green Bay Packers in 2006.
Originally from Phoenix, Ariz., Cooper began his college career at Glendale Community College. His final season of junior college, he led all junior college tight ends in three different categories -- receptions (44), receiving yards (578) and touchdown receptions (8).
Cooper earned his bachelor’s degree from NDSU in criminal justice in 2006. He and his wife, Amanda, who is a former NDSU women’s basketball player, were married in July 2011. They have two sons, Carter Johnson and Cameron Myles.