Cooper Rush has not only spent his collegiate career making his mark in Central Michigan’s record book, he has also been starring away from the football field.
The fifth-year senior was a finalist for this year’s William V. Campbell Trophy, which is annually awarded to college football’s top scholar athlete. While he did not win the award, which fellow MAC quarterback Zach Terrell captured, he was in elite company as one of 12 finalists assembled at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York last week for the banquet.
“It was truly an amazing event,” he said. “It was an honor to be there with hall of famers and basically everybody who matters in football. It was awesome to be involved with that.”
Rush is Central Michigan’s first player in 29 years to be named a National Football Foundation National Scholar Athlete. The Charlotte, Mich., native and graduate student earned a bachelor's degree in actuarial science with a 3.86 grade-point average.
In addition he was an Allstate AFCA Good Works Team nominee and Tuesday was named Academic All-MAC for the fourth straight year.
“When you really think about it, it is kind of the ultimate package award with athletics, academics and social service,” he said of the scholar-athlete recognition. “It is really cool to be honored with some great people and you get recognized for something other than just your athletic ability. It is definitely a true honor.”
Rush’s resume on the gridiron boasts of some eye-opening accomplishments as well, including being the active FBS leader in career passing yards with 12,653. That figure is second all-time in the MAC to the 12,905 Dan LeFevour accumulated with the Chippewas from 2006-09. Rush has a good shot at moving into first against Tulsa in Monday’s Miami Beach Bowl, where a win would give CMU a 7-6 mark for the third consecutive year.
As somebody who grew up loving mathematics it is only appropriate Rush has kept the calculator humming when it comes to his litany of single-game, single-season and career passing accomplishments that have marked his career in Mount Pleasant.
“In high school math was my favorite subject,” he said. “Coming to college I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I was good at math and I just kind of found my major. I have always been intrigued by math.”
Matt and Fran Rush stressed the importance of education to their three sons, Cooper, Dillon and Owen, a freshman on the Grand Valley State golf team. They had to hit the books before being allowed to go outside and throw the ball around.
“I remember growing up that me and my brothers could not go outside and do anything or play any sports until we finished our homework,” said Rush, a four-year starter who will make his 48th straight start in the bowl game. “It was kind of built into me from an early age that you have to get your schoolwork done first before you can do other things.”
That is one of the many reasons why Rush, who was included on every quarterback-related watch list, credits his parents for shaping him into the individual he is today.
“My parents are great people that both came from great families,” he said. “It got passed on to me and my brothers to prioritize correctly and keep things in line. They always preached education, service to others and stuff like that.”
Rush has been giving of his time by, among other things, helping with the Special Olympics and feeding the less fortunate. People throughout the world of college football have noticed his many deeds, which is why has won or been a finalist for a good number of awards that recognize such achievements.
An exclamation point on his college football career is that he will fly to St. Petersburg to partake in the East-West Shrine game. The all-star showcase for seniors takes place at Tropicana Field on Jan. 21 and provides a platform to catch the attention of NFL scouts.
A professional football career is something Rush desires before perhaps becoming an actuary and hooking up with an insurance company or some related business.
“I want to pursue football as long as possible,” he said. “After that, if I want to get into it, I have a good degree and can work toward becoming an actuary.”
Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa. Follow him on Twitter at @TomLay810.