As the Cowboys get set to start the 2017 preseason, several positions on the 53-man roster are still up for grabs. Dak Prescott’s job is secure as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, but his backup, one of the most important jobs on the roster, is still undecided. Veteran backup Kellen Moore has held the position for the past two seasons, but the Cowboys have an undrafted free agent that could shake up the depth chart. Cooper Rush might not just be the backup quarterback: he also might be the smartest player on the team.
Here’s what you need to know about Cooper Rush:
1. He Hails From Charlotte, Michigan
Cooper Rush didn’t have the most direct route to the NFL, and it started in the small town of Charlotte. With an estimated population of under 10,000 people, Rush played his high school football at Lansing Catholic. The school is small (535 students), but the numbers were not. Rush went 25-5 in his high school career as a starter, and finished with over 7,000 yards and 80 touchdowns.
Despite the success, Rush didn’t receive any offers to play in college. Rush attended camps at all the area schools, but only received one offer. That came from Central Michigan, after then-offensive coordinator Morris Watts saw Rush heaving long passes during a rainstorm. The Chippewas were running a pass-first, pro-style offense, and Rush would eventually be a perfect fit.
2. Rush Played 50 Games During His Collegiate Career
Rush was redshirted his freshman season, but didn’t have to wait long to step under center. He made his debut in the second game of his second season, and took the job from that moment forward. He threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns in that relief appearance and was named the starter the following week.
Rush compiled an impressive career at CMU, finishing in the top three of almost every statistical category. The statistical accolades compliment his academic performance, where Cooper was consistently a standout. Rush was named Academic All-ACC in each of his three seasons as a starter. During his senior season, he set a CMU single-season record with 3,848 passing yards.
3. His Biggest Highlight Came During the 2014 Bahama Bowl
Rush isn’t the flashiest quarterback, but his team went viral in 2014 with a crazy ending to their bowl game against Western Kentucky. Rush didn’t start the game strong, but showed great poise and leadership down the stretch. CMU trailed by as much as 35 points in the fourth quarter, but Rush and the offense kept chipping away. Still down by seven in the final seconds, Rush and his teammates scored on a 75-yard multilateral Hail Mary as time expired. It was a great throw from Rush, who finished the game with seven TD passes. Unfortunately for the Chippewas, Rush and the offense were unable to convert the two-point conversion and lost, 48-49.
The play was so impressive, Rush and his CMU teammates were nominated at the 2015 ESPY Awards for Best Play. Rush and his teammates were in attendance, but watched as Odell Beckham Jr. took home the award for his ridiculous TD catch against the Dallas Cowboys.
4. Rush’s Biggest Asset is His Brain
Rush doesn’t have the overwhelming physical attributes for the NFL, but his mental ability could be as good as anybody. He graduated CMU with a 3.89 grade point average and a degree in Actuarial Sciences, a difficult career choice in it’s own right. An actuary is a professional that helps businesses quantify risk, and is often used in the world of insurance.
The job typically involves odds and percentages. Here’s a quiz with questions and actuary would have to answer.
Rush’s ability to think quickly made him invaluable at Central Michigan. With Rush under center, CMU could call a run play with two options (right and left) and let Rush make the decisions at the line of scrimmage. Rush devours film, and his quick-decision making will be his biggest strength at the next level. One NFL.com draft profile described Rush as “Defined by cerebral approach” and a “Juggernaut in the film room.” Those compliments were offset by his physical shortcomings, which the profile described as a “Frumpy body with very little muscular definition.”
5. Rush is Competing With Luke McCown to be the Cowboys’ Third QB
Rush went undrafted at the 2017 NFL Draft, but was signed as a free agent by the Cowboys in May. Zac Dysert, projected to be the team’s third-stringer, suffered a herniated disk in a freak injury and will spend the season on injured reserve. Dallas added Luke McCown at the end of July for depth, but Rush is firmly implanted in the depth chart battle.
With ten seasons spent on NFL sidelines, McCown might be the safer option should Dallas choose to roster three quarterbacks. But Rush’s mental game makes him a unique talent, one who should at least stick with the team on the practice squad this season.