Hernandez James Cooper
(born May 17
in Palestine, Texas
) is a former American football receiver
who played for the Arizona Rattlers
of the Arena Football League
until his retirement in 2005. He is a two time recipient of the Ironman of the Year award and was voted league MVP in 1993.
Hunkie Cooper was the son of a military veteran and the youngest, and shortest, of 5 children. He received the name Hernandez from a pact his father had made to his best friend prior to the Vietnam War
. The pact they made said that if either were to die, the other would name his next child after him.
High school years
Cooper attended Westwood High School
in Round Rock, Texas
and was a student and a letterman
, and baseball
. In football, he played quarterback
Hunkie went on to play at Navarro College
in Texas where he led the Bulldogs to a NJCAA
national championship in 1989. He soon transferred to University of Nevada, Las Vegas
. At UNLV, he played six different positions, and he was a two-time All-Big West Conference
selection. In a dramatic beginning to D1 Football in Hunkie's first game for Head Coach Jim Strong's UNLV Rebel's he scored Four Touchdowns from all over the field in the season opener verses Southwest Missouri. As a punt returner
during his senior season he was selected as an All American
. He received a B.A.
in Criminal Law
Arena Football League career
After his time at UNLV, Hunkie believed his football career was over, so he took a job at a Las Vegas
area casino. He tried playing in the Canadian Football League
, but was not very successful. One day at work a man named Pete Katella asked him if he would like to sign a contract with the Arizona Rattlers
Hunkie arrived at camp as a fourth string receiver but quickly worked his way up the depth chart
. By the end of the year he was selected as the league MVP, and an all-star as an Offensive Specialist
. This was all after he broke the AFL record for kickoff return yards with 1423 yards.
Hunkie helped take the team to their first ArenaBowl
appearance,which they won 36-31.
After a great year he was again selected as an all-star specialist.
A year after making the transition to a two way receiver and linebacker, he was selected as an all star once again.
Hunkie was a second team all star selection. He helped lead the team to their second ArenaBowl win and was voted as Ironman of the game after catching a 30 yard touchdown pass, returning a kick for a touchdown, and returning an interception for a touchdown.
He was voted Tinactin Ironman of the Year, Second Team All-Arena - WR/LB, and All-Ironman Team.
He was again voted Tinactin Ironman of the Year, First Team All-Arena - WR/LB, and All-Ironman Team - WR/LB.
Once again he was selected to the All-Ironman Team - WR/LB and for the first time was a First Team member of the 15th Anniversary Team - WR/LB.
He helped lead the team to three consecutive appearances in the ArenaBowl.
Cooper began the season on Injured Reserve
, missing the first two games of the season with a quadriceps
injury. He soon retired after being cut.
Cooper is one of only two players to earn both AFL MVP (1993) and Ironman of the Year awards (1999, 2000) in a career. He is also one of two players to earn Ironman awards twice. He finished his career as Arizona's all-time leader in receiving yards (8,559), receptions (776), forced fumbles (7), fumble recoveries (11) and touchdowns (205). Cooper is also the Arena Football League's all-time leader in all-purpose yardage (20,587) and kickoff returns (500).
After being cut by the Rattlers in 2005, he decided to retire. On May 6, 2005, the Arizona Rattlers retired his #14.
He is now an assistant coach for the Utah Blaze under his former coach Danny White. Cooper resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hunkie is married to his wife, Tiffany and has six children: Nigel (19), Dirik (18), Simone (17), Brianna (11), A.J. (10), and Destini (7).