(WSYM) — Cooper Koenigsknecht was just like every other infant until he wasn't. At the age of two, Cooper stopped speaking and playing with his toys. After a series of tests and evaluations, Cooper was diagnosed with autism.
"As a father, it was very difficult. You have your hopes and your dreams and they were there for a couple of years and to see them disappear there were some pretty stressful times. But, we committed to him and helping him develop as best he can," Cooper's dad Scott said.
Cooper started speaking again at the age of four and was conversational by six. The Koenigsknecht’s wanted Cooper to be as mainstream as possible. Cooper fell in love with football and was the team manager for the Fowler varsity football team in the fourth grade. Cooper started playing football in eighth grade. He credits his coaches for helping him really learn and understand the game.
"As a young kid growing up watching the older guys play, I wanted to fill in their shoes and here I am today," Koenigsknecht said.
For the past three years, he was on Fowler's varsity football team. At 6'4" college coaches started to take note. Madonna was a school that stood out to Cooper.
"When I got in the car (after the visit) I told my mom and dad this is for real, this is my home. My dad's like 'Cooper we have so many colleges to visit and I was like Dad this is where I want to be," he said.
Cooper Koenigsknecht is now the first college football player in the state of Michigan with autism.
"I am just the most proud of the people and community that supported me throughout the way," Koenigsknecht said.
"I am extremely proud of Cooper, he was incredibly hard. When the helmet goes on and the hand gets in the dirt, the autism goes away," Scott Koenigsknecht said.
Cooper will head to Madonna and begin living his dream in August of 2023.
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