The bleachers were quiet during an Augusta Christian baseball game Thursday -- until Zach Cooper showed up and sat on the first row.
From then on, no one -- from the opposing pitcher to Lions batters in the on-deck circle -- was safe from Cooper's good-natured ribbing.
The Lions senior signed Friday to play football for Louisburg (N.C.) College, leaving Augusta Christian coach Bruce Lane to replace a key member of his offensive line, in addition to a big personality.
"He's a fun-loving guy," Lane said. "He likes to develop a relationship with those around him."
Cooper's signing was in doubt until recently. Lane sent Cooper's highlight film to Louisburg in January, just before it changed coaching staffs.
Cooper's film was lost in the shuffle, and Lane had to send another tape to current coach John Sala.
Lane received a fax soon after. The Hurricanes offered Cooper a full scholarship.
Before the offer, Cooper had considered not playing football and attending school closer to home, possibly at University of South Carolina Aiken, but the decision to sign with Louisburg was never truly in doubt.
"I just really can't see myself not playing football longer," Cooper said. "I went back and forth, whether I should just not play football. I just can't see myself doing that quite yet."
Cooper anchored the Lions offensive line, but he also played in defensive packages. Sala allowed Cooper to pick which side of the ball he wanted to play at Louisburg.
Cooper chose defense, citing his size.
"They look for different things on their level," Lane said. "We were predominantly a running football team the last couple years. We needed some guys that could knock folks off the ball and I think that was a strong point for Zach."
The Hurricanes restarted their football program in 2005 after a 70-year absence. Sala was hired in February.
Cooper said he'll be sad to leave his group of close-knit classmates at Augusta Christian for a school more than five hours away. He would like to transfer after his two years at Louisburg and play football at Charleston Southern.
"I just love it so much that I really don't think I could not play in college," he said. "Just go home and not have practice."
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