A high school athlete's junior season is their most crucial for college recruiting.
Nevada's Cooper Shults was robbed of that showcase season, a broken foot his junior year limiting him to three games and keep him from attending crucial college camps later that summer. As a result, he didn't have a lot of college interest coming out of college after another injury-plagued senior season when he caught 12 passes for 206 yards and five touchdowns as a 6-foot-6 tight end prospect.
"My dad played college football and that was always my dream for the longest time," Shults said. "I think senior year I was out for a lot of it, but when I was able to play, I really had a lot of interest and impressed some of my coaches. They told me that this was something I could do."
Despite the injuries, Shults was offered a scholarship from Cal Poly, an FCS school. But Shults wanted to play at the FBS level, so he instead walked on at Oregon, a perennial Top 25 school.
"This is a tough game, especially at the collegiate level," Shults said. "It's a full-time job. It can be tough at times, but you stick it through and the benefits are definitely worth it in the end. Being at Oregon, being kind of a walk-on, a lower guy, it was an uphill battle, but I think I worked through it and got myself opportunities like this one."
After two seasons at Oregon, Shults transferred to Nevada this winter on scholarship, following coach Ken Wilson, who was hired by Nevada in December after serving as a the Ducks' co-defensive coordinator last year. At Oregon, Shults played in 15 games, including 13 last year. He didn't record a catch during his Oregon career, but did have a kick return of 13 yards. And he should be in the mix for the Wolf Pack's starting tight end position in 2022.
"I decided it would be best for me to enter the transfer portal, and from there these guys were the first guys that hit me up right afterward because they knew what I could do," Shults said of Nevada's staff. "I love these coaches. I love what’s going on here. The way the practices work and everything, I think we're really gonna do some great things here and for myself."
Wilson's offense at Nevada will include more playing time for tights ends than Jay Norvell's Air Raid and will require them to block more as well. Wilson is excited to see what Shults can do with extended playing time.
"Cooper has gotten a lot bigger," Wilson said. "He's a really good football player. That's why we wanted him to come down here. When he came down from Oregon, he's gotten a lot bigger, stronger. He's been a little banged up, but he's fought through that. He's getting back healthy now. I think you can see the size in him and how he plays. He's gonna be a big factor in our offense.
"This program is built on a lot of personnel groups, and with Coop he's a big tall guy. He's athletic. You can move him out to wide receiver, in the red zone throwing fades, and you could put him inside. He’ll block for you. He’s a good special teams player, so he's got a bright future here."
You can watch the full feature on Cooper Shults below.