Miami vs. Nebraska, 9.20.14

Nebraska safety Corey Cooper (6) locks in on Miami running back Duke Johnson (8) in first-quarter action at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014.

Jeremiah Sirles wouldn’t want to do it again — not this week of butterflies and slow clock hands, draft week, when you’re one of those hopefuls waiting to see what strange area code pops up on your phone.

“This week it gets a little crazy, because you start thinking about it more and more,” said the former Husker and current San Diego Charger. “When you do the Pro Day and stuff, you have so much time before the draft is actually going, and then in the weeks leading up to the draft, teams start calling you: ‘Hey, is this your number? We want to make sure we have your main number.’ You start to get really anxious about it. Then you know so much is out of your control. That’s what is hard.”

Not that there aren’t anxious moments right now for Randy Gregory, and all the jibber-jabber about whether he’ll go in the first round, or Ameer Abdullah, often projected as a second-round pick, or Kenny Bell, who also seems likely to hear his name called before the NFL Draft ends Saturday.

But for other former Huskers, like it was with Sirles last year, there is the understanding that the waiting could extend even beyond the draft’s final pick, when teams make a mad scramble to sign preferred free agents.

“I’m probably not going to watch it, to be honest with you,” former Husker safety Corey Cooper said of the draft. “That’s too nerve-wracking for me. I’ll let my parents watch it.”

Don’t mistake it: Cooper is feeling upbeat. He didn’t get an invitation to the NFL Combine, but he had some strong practices leading up to the East-West Shrine Game and performed well at the Pro Day. About five or six teams called him for visits after it.

He even was asked to go work out for his hometown Chicago Bears.

“That was an opportunity I wanted to make sure I took advantage of,” he said. “And I think I did really well. So I have a good feeling.”

Cooper has a realistic approach heading into the draft, which begins with the first round Thursday night in Chicago.

He’s heard his best shot is to get drafted in the later rounds, but knows priority free agency is a strong possibility, too. Who knows? There’s so much talk out there. “I’ve heard so many different things, I try not to listen to everything. I’m just patiently waiting, and will go from there once I hear something.”

His focus is on playing more football, but he has his eyes wide open as he heads into the uncertain months ahead.

“I’m not naïve. I know football isn’t guaranteed. That’s what makes it so nerve-wracking," Cooper said. "Because you want to play football as long as you can, but you also got to be realistic and keep other doors open."

Other Huskers who hope to get a shot with a team, one way or another, include linebackers Zaire Anderson and Trevor Roach, cornerback Josh Mitchell and offensive linemen Jake Cotton and Mike Moudy.

After Nebraska's Pro Day, Cotton said he was asked to visit Washington, where he talked with the team's offensive line coach, Bill Callahan.

Cotton's plan is to keep his mind off the draft as much as possible this weekend. He'll probably hang out with his girlfriend, and also his brother, Sam. He figures playoff hockey and the Kentucky Derby can keep him distracted enough.

"Everything that I could have done, I’ve done," Cotton said. "I guess the calming side of it is I know I can’t do anything else to help myself. … It’s out of my control.”

Even if Cotton, or others mentioned, don't get drafted, there are enough success stories of free agents who worked their way onto NFL rosters to encourage him, including Cotton's former Husker O-line mates, Sirles and Brent Qvale, who is with the New York Jets.

"If that’s the route I have to go, I know that that’s a route that can be taken and be successful at," Cotton said.

In the case of Sirles, he made the move from San Diego's practice squad to an active participant on the team after some injuries. He was starting by the end of the season as the Chargers made a bid for the playoffs.

While he's made it work without being drafted, he'll be the first to say being drafted gives a player a jump on the competition.

“Because a team has the money invested in you. They wanted you. ... Once you get here and get to the team, if you’re not (picked) in those first four rounds, really, it’s a battle with the free agents. It's a battle for the spots," Sirles said. "You have 20-25 guys that they bring into rookie mini-camp and it’s just an all-out war for those three days."

Stressful as last year was, Sirles will always fondly remember getting the call from the Chargers. He was at former Husker Cole Pensick's wedding. The party was on big-time after that call, huh?

“For me it was kind of party off because I had to fly out the next morning," Sirles joked.

And so when Cotton called him this week to talk about what to expect  Saturday, Sirles had just one piece of advice: Have a bag packed.

The next adventure could begin as soon as Sunday.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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