OAKLAND — An always smiling Jailen Cooper must have been in Seventh Heaven as Wednesday’s Oakland Raiders’ VIP guest along with his proud family from North Carolina. Jailen was chosen by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to participate in an Oakland Raiders practice session. He is also recovering from a tumor on his pituitary gland and the subsequent treatments, but you would never guess that in a million years judging by his exuberance.
Raiders’ CEO Amy Trask and the rest of the Oakland Raiders rolled out the red carpet for Jailen as they gave him his own locker complete with his own personalized jersey and cap. The Raiders also gave him Carte blanche of the practice field as he got a once in a lifetime opportunity to lead the team warmups alongside the team trainer, assist the assistant coaches during positional drills, and even watched the more intensive team drills alongside Raider Head Coach Tom Cable! Never once looking overwhelmed; Jailen looked curiously like a seasoned veteran as if her were made to do this. Jailen was totally in his element.
At the end of practice, the team typically comes together on the field for a group huddle before they hit the lockerrom. This time it was a little different. Jailen was in the center of the team huddle. All of a sudden a chant breaks out, “Jai-len…Jai-len…Jai-len!” from all the players. All of a sudden, the team splits off in two columns; making a gauntlet (it’s sort of like a Soul Train Dance line), but with football players and no music.
At one end of the gauntlet stood Darren McFadden, (Jailen’s favorite football player), with the ball in the ready position and at the other end stood Jailen in his best defensive lineman stance. Then all of a sudden Jailen runs full speed, hits, wraps up (proper technique too), and tackles McFadden to the ground. The team erupts in euphoria as they cheer on Jailen and briefly hoists him in the air in celebration.
Then for kicks and giggles, Jailen stole the show as he headed the coach’s pres conference by fielding questions from the media before coach Cable took over. The kid was AWESOME!!! Did I mention that he’s only 10 years old?!
*ESPN will be airing Jailen’s visit and other Make-A-Wish recipients July 18-27.