HANOVER, N.J. – Two weeks ago, New York Jets fullback J.C. Copeland was seated behind the desk of a doctor's office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he was filing paperwork and worrying about final exams. Now after a successful rookie minicamp, Copeland has gone from a clerical job with no future in the NFL to someone who is now hoping to make the Jets roster.
Last year, Copeland surprisingly went undrafted, this after three years as a starter at LSU and an MVP performance at the NFLPA Bowl following his senior season. Signed to an undrafted deal with the Dallas Cowboys, Copeland was cut towards the end of preseason and spent the past year back in college, finishing up his degree in sports administration. It looked, on the surface, like he was going to be out of football. Although he continued his workouts, he was back in classes at LSU as he worked on the final couple of classes for his degree.
He lived on campus, took classes and had a job. It was just like the days when he was a standout fullback for LSU, minus football.
Just a couple weeks back, Copeland was in the midst of getting ready for a final exam in economics and working his part-time job. He did administrative work for a local cardiologist. NFL dreams seemed distant. That's when his cell phone lit up with a number he hadn't seen for a little while.
It was his agent on the other end of the line, telling him that the Jets had interest in bringing him in to their rookie minicamp. He would be a tryout player, but it didn't matter; a day later he was on a plane bound for New Jersey. He impressed and the Jets signed him to a deal.
There's still the matter, however, of that pesky economics exam. He had called his professor to see if he could get the exam moved – it was the same day as the start of Jets rookie minicamp – and there was literally no way he could be in two places at once.
“What do you do right there? Do you get your education or do you chase your dream?” Copeland told Metro. “I chose to chase my dream. The good news is that I'm still here chasing it.”
As soon as he learned about the opportunity with the Jets, one of the first things he did was email his professor to tell him he wouldn't be able to take the final exam, which was scheduled to be administered in just two days. Copeland didn't find out till after rookie minicamp started that his professor was out of town and unable to get back to him but that he was willing to postpone the exam. He will take it at a later date, he just doesn't know when.
Currently, he has an incomplete in the class. In the email the professor said he understood the situation and wished him the best of luck.
When he arrived at LSU, Copeland was originally a defensive end. He was a four-star recruit according to Rivals.com, with offers from Auburn, South Carolina as well as numerous other big-time programs. As a senior in high school, he was 6-foot-2-inches and 240 pounds. That's a big boy.
But during his freshman year, he switched to fullback and played in four games at his new position. Each year he saw more playing time, including four starts his sophomore year. By his junior season he was entrenched at LSU as their starting fullback where his big frame and surprisingly nimble feet made him a powerful blocker.
Yet despite the feeling that he would be a late-round selection, Copeland went undrafted. He signed with the Cowboys, perhaps not the best situation given how they use their fullback. Fullbacks are a dying breed in the pro game, but with the Jets he falls into a position where he can possibly make an impact.
“I really made a bad decision, I didn't do my homework,” Copeland said. “[The Cowboys] don't really use the fullback much. I thought they really wanted me. Here, I like what they want from the position. I feel like I can do what they want me to do. I'm enjoying the offense so far.”
The Jets do have Tommy Bohannon healthy and on the roster after missing much of last year with a broken collarbone He's a good fullback and fits their offense well. But Copeland is a sheer physical specimen and is intriguing.
All of which means that if things go well with the Jets, Copeland won't be taking that final exam in economics anytime soon.
“I haven't studied much for it in a long time,” Copeland said with a laugh. “Busy learning things here. I kind of hope I won't be worrying about that for a long time.”