Q&A with Jon Copper
by Carlos Valle
John Copper should again be one of the chief playmakers for the Cavalier defense in 2008. He led the team in tackles in both 2006 and 2007. A native or Roanoke, Va., Copper talks about spring football to VirginiaSports.com. He and the rest of the Cavaliers will play the annual Spring Game Saturday at 2 p.m. at Scott Stadium. Gates open at noon for the Spring Football Festival. Admission and parking are free.
Question: How has this spring been different than the past?
Copper: As a team, my first year spring was kind of like this year. We had some good veteran guys who brought leadership and then we also had some young guys who hadn’t played much so it was a good mix. The next year it seemed like everyone was new and learning things. Then last year it seemed like we had a good amount of veterans. This year we have a nice mix like we did for my first spring.
Question: As a two-year starter, how important is it for you to be a leader on this team?
Copper: I don’t set it as a goal but like anyone who has been around here for four or five years like Clint Sintim, John Phillips or Antonio Appleby, you see the way things have been done and which ways turned out to be successful. We want to try to imitate that. We hold each other to a certain standard. If we see some young guys not living up, we try to address that.
Question: With three starters back at linebacker, how well do you guys know each other and anticipate things because you have a feel for each other? Is that a big advantage?
Copper: It’s big. We improve a lot every year and I felt collectively we had a good year last year just playing together and understanding what was going on. There are things we have been learning this spring and things that we learned during the year last year that I think we will come in with at the start. It will make things better. It’s some extra bricks in the wall.
Question: You had two interceptions last year. Any thoughts of being a two-way player and giving wide receiver a shot?
Copper: They used to do that with Ahmad Brooks. He was a kickoff returner and a wide receiver. And then I came in and I guess I didn’t fit that mold.
Question: What impresses you the most about this team?
Copper: It’s hard to tell. We’ve got some guys stepping up. We’ve got some guys who bring good leadership. We’re going to have to see how it pans out. It’s like every year in the spring. There are too many things for me to really point to some and say “X, Y and Z”. You need to just see how guys come along and I think we have some guys who are improving.
Question: Who is a player on defense that will surprise people next year?
Copper: Aaron Clark has had a good off-season thus far. If he continues that through the summer he will do very well during the season.
Question: What has been your favorite UVa football moment?
Copper: Beating FSU my second year. Beating Middle Tennessee last year. Gosh there have been so many. The Wake Forest game last year. The Miami game last year. There’s a few. It’s hard to pick.
Question: As one of the few married players on the team, do you ever go home and find that your wife, Holly, has chores for you?
Copper: She likes a little help around the house and I try to honor that. That’s one of the ways I try to express my love to her. I know the maintenance guy pretty well so if things go really badly and I need help I just call him or e-mail him.
Question: Originally a walk-on, when did you have your “moment” when you knew you could play at this level?
Copper: Last year. Probably during camp last year.
Question: How do you like Coach Groh coaching your position?
Copper: It’s good. He is very knowledgeable. Obviously he has been around and coached some of the best linebackers in the NFL and in college. It has been a tremendous asset for me personally and I think the other linebackers would say the same.
Question: During the season, how much time do you think you spend watching tape on your own?
Copper: Enough. I get it done.
Question: Aside from football, what is the biggest impact attending UVa has had on your growth as a person?
Copper: The spiritual community here is something that I didn’t quite know was here at first. We had about 10 pretty solid believers in the football team when I first got here. My wife and I recently got more involved with a local church here in town. There are a lot of great churches in town and people are willing to help each other. That has been a great encouragement for me. If I had to point to one thing I would say living with Ben Parziale for three years. The way he lived his life and his Christian character just had a tremendous impact on my life.
Question: What is something people don’t know about you?
Copper: I don’t know. There’s a ton of stuff people don’t know about me.