Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp On Self Improvement & Cultivating A Winning Mindset

What makes a person a champion? What makes a person a success? What is that extra edge that allows a person ascend above the expectations made by outsiders, as well as themselves? Before he was a Super Bowl winner and All-Pro wide receiver, Cooper Kupp was an underweight, unassuming high school senior with no college recruits knocking at his door.

So how did he go from mostly ignored by recruits to the Most Valuable Player of the biggest game in the NFL?

The answer is an endless amount of work, early mornings, and a religious dedication to becoming better every single day. But there is something more than training routines or diet plans that we can learn from Kupp — the ultimate power of perseverance and self-improvement. We spoke to the LA Rams slot receiver about his personal journey to greatness to get a glimpse into the mentality of a champion. And while you may not be trying to compete in the NFL, there are plenty of takeaways that you can apply to any of your own passions or endeavors.


Do you remember the first time you realized that football was your path in life?

The first time I stepped out onto a football field, when I was nine years old, I knew that I wanted to be a football player. That day I put on the football pads for the first time, and I told my dad that that is what I wanted to do. I had thrown the ball around with him for years before that, he was a NFL quarterback, but that is when it became a reality for me. I was lucky that the first great coach that I worked with was my dad. Since he was teaching me from the perspective of a quarterback, I learned the role in the right way.

Did you face any adversity early on in this pursuit?

Growing up everyone was taller than me and everyone was faster than me. There came a point where I needed to be working when nobody else was so that I could keep up with my friends and hang with them. Freshman year of high school I was 5-foot-4 and 115 pounds. I made a concerted effort to put on 15 pounds every off-season that I had. During those high school years, I got laughed at all of the time. But that didn’t stop me.

How did you go about that process of putting on the muscle?

I would go into the weight room after hours and late at night — I knew all of the janitors who would let me in. I wore these ankle weights to school every day because that is what I felt I needed to do to make the leaps and bounds that I needed. I would wear them under my sweatpants while walking around. The work paid off though. By the end of high school I was 175 pounds, but still coming out of a school that no one had really heard of.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I felt like I really came into my body.


What was it like showing up for your first real spring training and participating in your first OTAs (organized team activities)?

I am always excited about finding ways to improve. The only issue was I have allergies, more specifically eye allergies, and it’s hard to catch a football when you can’t see. I started to use Pataday eye drops which got me through. I know there are a lot of people out there that suffer from allergies like me.

What kept you pushing forward during the more difficult years or situations? And kept you winning?

The only thing that never changed was my mindset and my mentality. That is the most important part of everything. You can get yourself in the best shape in the world, and still come up short. I know that because every year we see freakily strong athletes who are able to do incredible things physically who, for whatever reason, don’t end up making it in the league.

There has to be a reason, a differential, and I believe a lot of that is the right mentality.

I put just as much importance on proving myself of this mentality, as I do those around me. That happens in moments like practice, when we are doing a five versus five match-ups, offense versus defense. I want my coaches to count on the fact that I wanted one of those slots every time. I do it for them, but also because I want to solidify it in my own mind. Everybody has that opportunity to go above and beyond, and when you take those chances are when you find what you are capable of.

Who are the coaches that have helped guide you to where you are today and what did they impart to you?

There are so many people who have helped me get as far as I have in this sport. This past year is the first year I have worked with the same trainer back to back, Erik Jernstrom of EForce Sports. I have been lucky enough to work with some great coaches and trainers from who I pulled bits of what I have in the routine now. One of those coaches was Junior Adams, who I had in college and who is now an offensive coach at Oregon State. Skills-wise he’s one of the best out there. I was driven by what he challenged me and the other players to be. He helped me believe in myself. That year made the biggest difference for me and how I play football to this day. I have built upon that foundation over the last ten years.

Back during my senior year in college, they had us figure out some sort of competition after every one of our workouts. They were always awful and punishing, like how long can you hold a pull-up or some other kind of miserable experience. Those challenges gave me the extra ability to take on those end-of-game experiences. My attention went inward during those tests and when it came time to make a play in a game, I wanted to be the one who stepped up to make it happen.

I didn’t want to be in my head at all about what people might be thinking or what they might be expecting or who was watching. I learned that I wanted to be the one who made that big play.

Cooper Kupp / Twitter

Can you speak on how you managed to keep your head during the highs and lows of last season?

I truly enjoyed the whole process of last year. I’ve always tried to be a very process-oriented and process-driven person when it comes to results. I think people forget that we didn’t win a single game in November, and went on a three-game losing streak. There was a bye week right in the middle of that losing streak and that was a rough stretch. We lose again after all of that, the last game of the regular season going into the playoffs. That is when you are wanting to be building momentum, not losing it. The whole world noticed it at that point, saying that we had lost what we had gained to that point.

But that was not a reality that we were going to accept, we just kept building as a team. Those results, even though they weren’t what we wanted, didn’t mean that we were any less of a team. There were things that just didn’t play out for us the way that we wanted, and we fell short in certain areas. So the conversation became about how can we move past that and continue to improve as a team in those moments.

We got to that place where we were stepping onto the field at So-Fi and we know who we are. We know that we are a better team than we were earlier in the season.

That last drive to victory at the Super Bowl was epic and you stepped up to the challenge in a big way, including catching the winning pass. Were you able to take in that moment of success amidst and after the chaos?

Of course, to a degree, but there is also a part of you that remembers that you are going to be back at it in two months. So it’s important that those months are spent recovering before we are back on the field. Because as happy as we are for the result of this year, we are starting back over this next season, to win another Super Bowl.

There are a lot of people that pay attention to stats, whether they are fans, sports professionals, or producers of games like Madden NFL 23. How do they fit into your vision of success if at all?

When it comes to football I’m not big on numbers, accolades, or any achievement that isn’t a team achievement for that matter. My goal is simply to be a better football player every year, every month, and every day. Being a better person every year, every month, and every day. That’s what keeps me focused and what keeps me moving forward. Always.