Corey Cooper shouldn't be a rising college football prospect. In fact, he's lucky to be alive.
"Everything was fine at first," Cooper's mother, Monica, said of the days after her son was born. "Then it all went downhill from there. He went back to the hospital and had to be in isolation because they didn't want him to infect the other kids."
Doctors never gave the family a firm diagnosis -- perhaps a viral or bacterial infection. Monica said her son's skin was yellow. Doctors told the family they had never had to use so many life-support cords on an infant. Every day there was seemingly some more bad news to digest.
"A social worker came in and said he wasn't responding to any noises," Monica said. "They said he was going to be deaf. They said he was going to have special needs and things of that nature. That's when it really hit us."
The family used their religious beliefs to carry them through the weeks of worry when their son wouldn't eat and would sleep for most of the day. When doubts crept in, prayers pushed them away.
"He was in the hospital for a good two months before he got well," Monica said.
Hard to believe now, especially for Corey. To see him now, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior wide receiver from Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook, is to see the picture of health and athleticism. It's a far cry from a baby on life support.
"It's crazy because I had those problems and turned out this way," he said.
"This way" means blossoming into one of the top prospects in North Carolina. He already has 10 scholarship offers -- including North Carolina, Iowa State, Illinois, Wake Forest, Oklahoma State, Tulsa, Kentucky and South Carolina -- and has heard from many others.
"It's going awesome," Corey said. "It's going real good. It's been crazy. I'm so happy."
Monica couldn't help but chuckle about her son's response to the flurry of interest from colleges.
"He's not a big talker, but he's been talking lately," she said.
Cooper took advantage of the dozens of college coaches who flooded to Millbrook to watch Keith Marshall, a five-star RB who signed with Georgia in February. While the offense was centered around Marshall, Cooper made the most of his opportunities.
"He got all that attention which also went towards me," Cooper said. "All the coaches came to watch him and that gave me a lot of exposure. It helped a lot."
While Cooper didn't have the big stats -- after topping 800 receiving yards as a sophomore, he had about half that as a junior -- some of that can be chalked up to the offense's reliance on Marshall and some spotty quarterback play, according to coach Clarence Inscore. It's hardly a reflection of Cooper's talent.
"I think he's got great ball skills," he said. "He catches the ball extremely well. He runs good routes. He's got good size. He's got the tools that everybody is looking for."
Including maturity. Inscore said his go-to receiver never got frustrated about being so limited in the offense.
"He did really well with it," Inscore said. "He still went out and did his thing every day. He practiced hard. He never complained about not getting the ball thrown his way. He was never selfish. I think that speaks volumes."
With his earlier receiving totals and improved quarterback play, Inscore expects Cooper to become the school's all-time leading receiver in 2012. Continuing to improve his academics will make him an even more coveted prospect.
Monica Cooper isn't the least bit surprised that her son has excelled despite the terrifying beginning to his life.
"It was horrible, but he was a special child," she said. "He was born on Christmas so we knew something good was going to come out of it."