Record-setting NFL receiver Cooper Kupp’s faith provides perspective on life and football

Cooper Kupp is turning in one of the most prolific seasons ever by a wide receiver in the NFL. Kupp’s the proud owner of this season’s wide receiver triple crown—leading the league in…

Cooper Kupp is turning in one of the most prolific seasons ever by a wide receiver in the NFL. Kupp’s the proud owner of this season’s wide receiver triple crown—leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. His play even garnered discussion about an MVP vote, a topic rarely breached for any receiver. In a position dominated by eccentric and sometimes problematic personalities, Cooper Kupp remains grounded by his family and faith. 

Cooper Kupp, receiver for the LA Rams. (@joeglo via Flicker)

The Kupps hold a unique honor in football history, being one of five families to have three different generations represented in the NFL. Cooper’s father, Craig Kupp, played 2.5 years in the NFL, while his Grandfather played 12 years in the NFL. Craig Kupp spoke at the end of 2020 on the Quarterback DadCast about being raised by an NFL dad and later being an NFL dad himself. He explained that He never wanted to pressure Cooper to follow in his footsteps, but rather let him find out what God had in store for him. He had no plans of living vicariously through his son, stressing that he sees too many parents fall into that trap. 

Craig Kupp also instilled an eternal perspective in his children from an early age. To him, football is finite, but the things that will matter most, in the long run, are the kind of husband, father, and friend you become in the process. A phrase he continually used in the interview, and with his children, is the reminder to always “lead with love.” Though his father lived an NFL life, Craig said he always knew he was loved by his parents, which he made sure to pass on to his four children.

Cooper continually credits his upbringing for the man that he is today. He is known by teammates and coaches for being one of the hardest-working players in the building. According to his father, Cooper physically matured late, but that did not stop him from working tirelessly on his craft. He focused on what He could control, his refinement in the fundamentals, knowing that once he grew he would be lightyears ahead of his competition. His hard work paid off, as Kupp set records during his college days at Eastern Washington, parlaying his success there into a selection in the third round of the NFL Draft in 2017. 

Growing up with a stellar example of a healthy family has also translated into a special relationship with his wife, Anna. In a recent feature piece for ESPN, Cooper said that his wife Anna doesn’t get the credit that she truly should for his meteoric rise to success. The pair were high school sweethearts and joined at the hip in college. Cooper knew he wanted to marry Anna since high school, and the two never listened to the outsiders claiming that they were “missing out” by their early commitment to each other. The pair married during college. 

“We just were so aligned in terms of what our goals were and what we wanted to do moving forward and what we wanted to be about as a couple…And the belief that football was the community, was the place that I was supposed to be, that we were supposed to be, and that’s where God placed us.”

Their mutual faith has allowed them to weather all of the ups and downs that come with professional sports and parenthood. Cooper experienced one of the lowest points of his football life when he tore his ACL in week 10 of the 2018 season, eventually forcing him to watch his team fall short in the Super Bowl. Instead of complaining, Kupp simply accepted this new reality and went to work on his road to recovery. In his time away from football, he focused on drawing strength from his faith in God, and he talked about being “able to every day find that joy in life that only comes from the Spirit (of God).”

Immediately following the injury, he posted to twitter:

His response to the setback was another in a long line of examples showcasing Kupp’s ability to keep everything balanced with an eternal perspective. “Knowing where your identity is and knowing that as much as I want to be a football player and I strive to be that, I’m so much more than that…This life is temporary but there’s such great things ahead. No matter what the naysayers say, no matter what anyone tells me, I know that my identity is in Christ and nothing can take me off of that.”

Cooper Kupp, after multiple crucial catches this past Sunday as his Los Angeles Rams defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, finds himself one game away from the Super Bowl. This season, Cooper has been one of the most impactful players in recent memory.

Though the accolades have piled up this year, Kupp remains steadfast in his priorities, just as he said after a game earlier this year: “Today, the verse that was on my mind was, ‘The heart of man chooses his path but the Lord establishes his steps’,” Kupp said. “It just gave me so much freedom to go out there and play free, give everything I had [and] know the results rested in Him.”