Although only 52, native Huntsvillian Ron Cooper has been a college football coach for 31 years. In an uncertain profession known for frequent changes, few in the business have lengthier or more impressive coaching portfolios than this 1979 graduate of Lee High School, whose various stops mostly at the assistant coaching level comprise some of Americas most prestigious football schools, including the University of Notre Dame. To this point in his career, Cooper has coached in 13 states Minnesota, Tennessee, Nevada, Indiana, Michigan, Alabama, Wisconsin, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana and twice each in North Carolina, Kentucky and Florida. He has also been a head college coach three times, first at Eastern Michigan University (1993-94), then the University of Louisville (1995-97) and then in his hometown at Alabama A&M from 1998-2001. While at Alabama A&M, he coached the Bulldogs to the 2000 SWAC Championship Game. He also coached future NFL star Robert Mathis in his first three college seasons at A&M. Cooper played football at Lee and then became a four-year letterman at Jacksonville State University, where he was a part of two Gulf South Conference championship teams and participated in three NCAA Division II playoffs. His coaching career began in 1983 as a graduate assistant at Appalachian State in North Carolina, where he later earned a masters degree in athletic administration, and continued the next year at the University of Minnesota. He was an assistant coach at Austin Peay University in 1985-86, the defensive coordinator at Murray State in Kentucky (1987-88), assistant coach at East Carolina (1989), defensive coordinator at UNLV (1990) and the secondary coach and assistant head coach under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame (1991-92) before his nine-year stretch in the head coaching jobs at Eastern Michigan, Louisville and Alabama A&M. He was an assistant coach at Wisconsin in 2002 and then defensive coordinator at Mississippi State (2003) before a five-year stretch at South Carolina. From 2009-11, he coached the secondary at LSU for Les Miles, then the defensive backs for the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2012. He is currently beginning his second year as secondary coach and assistant head coach at the University of South Florida. In 2006, Cooper was a nominee for the Broyles Award as National Assistant Coach of the Year while at South Carolina. In addition to Mathis, he has coached more than 30 players picked in the NFL draft, including Thorpe Award winners Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne and Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu, who all played at LSU. Cooper credits his late parents, Wilbert and Martha Cooper, for much of his success. I was blessed and fortunate enough to have two incredible parents who always encouraged me and my brother to be the best we could be, he said. Their love and support molded me into the coach and person that I am today. They knew the passion that I showed for sports at an early age, and they made it the center of our lives. My parents were always there to support me during my days at Lakewood Park, Chapman Middle School and Lee High School. Not once did they miss a game. They always greeted me with a smile and words of encouragement, which reinforced my love of the game. As I moved on to Jacksonville State as a college athlete and then throughout my coaching career, I was blessed to have both parents until December of 1992 and to have the other until December of 2013. I hope my career can honor their loving memory. Cooper and his wife, Djuna Cooper, have two sons, Tristan and Deuce, and a daughter, Tyler.