Arrow-right Camera
Eastern Washington University Football
Sports >  EWU football

Importance of Father’s Day extends three generations in football-loving Kupp family

Former Eastern Washington standout Cooper Kupp (10) shakes hands with his father, Craig, after an Oct. 8, 2016 game in Cheney. (Mason Trinca / Yakima Herald-Republic)
Former Eastern Washington standout Cooper Kupp (10) shakes hands with his father, Craig, after an Oct. 8, 2016 game in Cheney. (Mason Trinca / Yakima Herald-Republic)

Cooper Kupp is worried about the health of his younger, stouter brother.

The third-year Los Angeles Rams receiver and former Eastern Washington star isn’t concerned about rookie linebacker Ketner Kupp’s adjustment to the league’s speed and physical nature as much he is the increased workload of babysitting Cooper’s 11-month-old son.

In a month dotted with weddings, graduations, training and a slew of other offseason obligations, Cooper and his wife, Anna, aren’t quite ready to hand over the diaper bag.

“We haven’t fully trusted him with (babysitting) yet. He keeps pulling for it,” Cooper said of Ketner, who joined the Rams last month after signing a rookie free-agent contract.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) and running back Todd Gurley (30) play with Cooper Kupp Jr., during walkthrough at the Mercedes Benz Stadium for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Atlanta. Cooper is the son of Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp. (John Bazemore / AP)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) and running back Todd Gurley (30) play with Cooper Kupp Jr., during walkthrough at the Mercedes Benz Stadium for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Atlanta. Cooper is the son of Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp. (John Bazemore / AP)

“I’m worried June will beat him up a little bit,” he added. “I’ve held off, not so much because I don’t think he can handle it, but more that I’m worried for him.”

Ketner slept on Cooper and Anna’s couch during the Rams’ mandatory workouts this past week, ate meals at their Los Angeles-area home and learned early lessons of the professional football grind.

Ketner had watched his brother handle the workload mostly from afar since Cooper was drafted in 2017 and started toward becoming one of the league’s top young targets.

Wearing the same curled horns as his brother, Ketner is now intimate with the process.

Weeks removed from his final college days in Cheney, Ketner, EWU’s leading tackler in 2018, also observed how Cooper went about his business as a father.

Amid the inherent frenzy that comes with the work-life balance of a popular figure in one of the top sports markets in the world, Cooper has kept his new fatherhood at the top of his priorities.

Just like their like father, former short-time NFL quarterback Craig Kupp, did for them.

And just like Craig’s father, former veteran NFL offensive lineman Jake Kupp, did for him.

The Yakima family’s NFL-thick bloodline has been spurred by generations of loving and supporting fathers, Ketner said.

“It’s definitely helped develop who we are as people,” Ketner said. “Our dad and grandpa are our idols. They set such great examples for us.

“Sometimes we took it for granted when we were younger, then you realize down the road what an important role they played in our development.”

Craig Kupp, now a sales representative, is relishing the odd position of having two of his three sons sharing an NFL roster.

Craig starred at Pacific Lutheran in Tacoma – then an NAIA program – before he was selected in the fifth round of the 1990 NFL draft by the New York Giants.

He had cups of coffee with the Giants, Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys before he was out of professional football by 1993.

“I was a lot like Ketner, living on that bubble, which can be an uncomfortable place to be,” Craig said. “He has a lot of work to do to stay there, but I’m confident in him.”

Former Eastern Washington linebacker Ketner Kupp, left, jokes with his father, Craig, at a family dinner after an Oct. 8, 2016 game in Cheney. (Mason Trinca / Yakima Herald-Republic)
Former Eastern Washington linebacker Ketner Kupp, left, jokes with his father, Craig, at a family dinner after an Oct. 8, 2016 game in Cheney. (Mason Trinca / Yakima Herald-Republic)

Cooper and Ketner sought wisdom from Craig in the genesis of their professional careers. Craig looked to his father, a former Washington standout who went on to become a captain of the New Orleans Saints.

Different generations, similar advice.

“Dad told me not to focus on where I played, a small college, but focus on what I can do,” Craig said of his father, now 78 and retired. “He was a smaller, scrappy lineman himself. Huge heart.”

Jake Kupp, grandfather of former Eastern Washington players Cooper and Ketner, watches an Oct. 8, 2016 game in Cheney. (Mason Trinca / Yakima Herald-Republic)
Jake Kupp, grandfather of former Eastern Washington players Cooper and Ketner, watches an Oct. 8, 2016 game in Cheney. (Mason Trinca / Yakima Herald-Republic)

But football lessons were just a small part of the wisdom Craig absorbed from the 1969 Pro Bowl selection.

“The example of how he lived his life. He’s still tenacious,” Craig said. “And how he treated his mom and loved my mom. I wanted to live my life that way.”

During their careers at EWU, Cooper and Ketner developed a reputation for their congeniality and tidy image.

Cooper, who rewrote many FCS receiving records, never cursed, according to coaches and teammates.

Ketner dropped the occasional four-letter word.

“They’ve grown into great men, and that’s the most important thing,” Craig said.

The Kupps also adhere to a faith-before-football approach.

Craig, his wife Karin, and their children Cooper, Ketner, Kobe and Katrina are longtime regular attendees of Yakima Foursquare Church.

Cooper, who has totaled 1,435 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 23 games for the Rams, has made a point to visit Foursquare when he’s back home visiting family.

“Our faith is very important to us. It keeps us grounded,” Craig said.

Cooper and Ketner will soon make the trek to Yakima to attend brother Kobe’s wedding.

Katrina, a junior at Davis High School, recently committed to play soccer at EWU.

“Anytime you get to have family around at this point in your life, and to have them around as much as we do, I don’t take that for granted at all,” Cooper said. “It’s a great experience and a real blessing for us.”

Ketner agreed.

“When we get back to see (dad and grandpa) for Father’s Day, it will be a good day,” he said.

Subscribe to the sports newsletter

Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.

You have been successfully subscribed!
There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com