November 7, 2016

Highlighted Year: Earl Cooper, 1980

Fullback, San Francisco 49ers

Age: 23 (Sept. 17)
1st season in pro football
College: Rice
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 227

Cooper was an effective all-around back in college, rushing for 1583 yards on 407 carries and catching 101 passes for 802 yards. Altogether he totaled 2385 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns. Attracted by his size and ability to catch the ball, he was chosen by the 49ers in the first round of the 1980 NFL draft (13th overall) and proved to be a productive receiver out of the backfield in Head Coach Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense.

1980 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 171
Most attempts, game – 21 (for 86 yds.) vs. NY Giants 11/23
Yards – 720
Most yards, game – 90 yards (on 15 carries) vs. Buffalo 12/21
Average gain – 4.2 [16]
TDs – 5

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 83 [2, 1st in NFC]
Most receptions, game – 10 (for 71 yds.) at New Orleans 9/7
Yards – 567
Most yards, game – 84 (on 3 catches) vs. NY Giants 11/23
Average gain – 6.8
TDs – 4

TDs – 9 [12, tied with eight others]
Points – 54

49ers went 6-10 to finish third in the NFC West.

Cooper rushed for 330 yards on 98 carries and caught 51 passes for 477 yards during the 1981 season that ended with a win in the Super Bowl, where he also contributed a touchdown catch. However, he proved to not be an effective inside runner and lost his starting job during the strike-shortened 1982 season. Cooper was shifted to backup tight end in ’83 due to his pass receiving skills and had his best year at that position in 1984, with 41 catches for 459 yards and four TDs, but lasted just one more season in San Francisco and finished his career in 1986 with the Raiders. Overall, Cooper rushed for 1152 yards on 298 carries (3.9 avg.) and caught 213 passes for 1908 yards (9.0 avg.), scoring a total of 18 touchdowns.


Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Percentage, Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970