Adam Troxtell, Sports Editor, email@example.com
Cooper Mosley sees the world, and subsequently the pitch, a bit differently than most high school juniors.
The Chickasha attacking midfielder is a product of his past, one of soccer dreams and a necessity for hope in the face of a seemingly insurmountable experience. Twice diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma as a child, he has overcome this much in the same way a goal is created: with the help and attention of others and a unified mindset.
And if ever there is a time this test of spirit gets to him, there is always the sanctuary of a soccer field.
"On the field, that's my place where everything disappears," Cooper said. "The field and the weight room, that's where I don't think about anything other than what's on hand."
It's been like that since Cooper was four, when parents Chris and Suehzen encouraged him to take up soccer. Even from a young age, Chris said, he seemed to have a unique understanding of the game.
"He and a teammate were running down the field, Cooper had the ball and he had one defender between them and the goal," Chris said, recalling a game at the under-6 age level. "He slows down a bit and starts motioning, waving to the right. His teammate peals off to the right and he passes it to him, around the defender.
"Here he is aged five, and he understands. That's something we had never worked on. So I knew he understood how to play the game."
Chris was part of the first Chickasha Youth Soccer Association high school group, back when the school didn't have a soccer program. He passed this enjoyment onto Cooper and his older son, Kyle, coaching them both as they grew in the game. Cooper and his teammates from an under-10 team even played up a season so that he and Kyle could share the same field.
Cooper's steady progress in the game was accelerating, but like an own goal out of the most unsuspecting situation, that all came to a halt on Feb. 14, 2008.
"I couldn't run, I had a big bump on my neck," Cooper said. "It was a lymph node, it was cancerous, and so it swelled up real big. We went in, had it cut out, did the biopsy and they said 'Hey, it's cancer.'"
Within hours, Chris said, the family whisked down to OU Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City. The Hodgkin's lymphoma was in stage 2, and they would spend the better part of the year trying to get rid of it. By August, things started to get a bit better, although the family wasn't quite ready to accept victory just yet. It is after all, as Chris says, so disorientating.
"Everything just spins in front of your eyes really fast," he said. "It takes a while to figure out what's going on. I remember when the doctor called me, exactly where I was."
Thoughts of cancer always stayed "in the back of your head," they said, and just before Thanksgiving in 2008, things got much worse. In a routine scan, doctors found troubling signs that the cancer was making a return.
For about 11 months, Cooper and his parents went back-and-forth to the hospital, blood tests were carried out, scans were made, but the source of the problem could not be found. In this time, understandably, Cooper's soccer playing was limited to nonexistent.
Finally, in October of 2009, a cancerous lymph node was identified and treatment could begin. Even in all of this, a young Cooper just took things in stride, to the best of his abilities.
"I knew what I was going to have to go through again," he said. "There were no surprises, so maybe that made it a little bit easier. I went to the hospital for the 22 day stay with a soccer ball so I could play in there."
His club team in the city, South Lakes Soccer Club, was there to help. They raised $2,200 for the Mosley's during all of this. Cooper used it to buy a Wii for the wing of OU Children's he stayed in, to buy gifts for friends he made there, and used a little left over to get himself an iPad.
Even in the hospital, Cooper's competitive spirit shone. When he entered on Dec. 14, the nurses told him the record for fastest recovery was 21 days. He had his eyes set on it, and came up just one day short with 22.
He was out and immediately began playing soccer, this time with current USAO head coach Jimmy Hampton who was careful to monitor Cooper's progress. While it was a steady build back to top form, Chris said he was happy to get his son back in the game he loves.
"I know how he enjoys the game, how he forgets about all problems," Chris said. "You hate to be the 'bad parent' but I pushed him back as quickly as possible, because I didn't want him just sitting around thinking about it. When he's with his teammates, it puts him in a different mindset."
His mother, Suezhen, says she noticed it aged Cooper mentally.
"It made him more mature," she said. "In junior high especially, what other kids are worried about, it was just irrelevant to him."
In the present day, it all has contributed to the way Cooper plays the game. He says it made him a tougher player.
"It's hard to explain," Cooper said. "It hardens you, makes your outside shell really hard, emotionally. Some kid may see something really sad, just in life, and you look over and don't see anything sad.
"It makes you reconsider everything; what you need as well as what you want," he said. "I don't know if it made me a better player. It made me tougher."
Now, no one would ever guess Cooper spent a few years outside of the game. He lines up along the teammates he credits with being there as friends, growing up in the CYSA. His family, and probably most of Chickasha, are just thankful he takes to the pitch in the purple and white.
"I'm just glad he's playing," Chris said. "It's easy to get caught up in everything going on, and then you realize it really isn't that important in the outcome."