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By: JB Scott
Puka Nacua thrived under Kupp’s mentorship
Just two years removed from one of the best statistical wide receiver performances in NFL history, Cooper Kupp found himself as somewhat of an afterthought in the passing game for the Los Angeles Rams. After amassing 145 receptions for 1,947 yards (115 YPG) and 16 touchdowns in 2021, Kupp was only healthy for 12 games in 2023 and caught 59 passes for 737 yards (61 YPG) and five scores.
Rookie phenom Puka Nacua took over as LA’s primary receiving and had the best statistical performance we’ve seen from a player in their first year. He finished with 105 receptions for 1,486 yards and six touchdowns. Late in the season journeyman Demarcus Robinson seemed to step up as even the Rams’ secondary pass catcher and he relegated Tutu Atwell to the sidelines.
Despite falling to as low as the third receiving option for Los Angeles, Kupp put aside any frustrations and found a way to make an impact off the field through leadership and mentorship. While making the rounds during Super Bowl week and ahead of the NFL Honors show on Thursday evening, Nacua had high praise for Kupp and credited his role as a veteran mentor for playing a significant role in the rookie’s historic debut campaign.
Puka admits to staying up late playing video games in college. His motivation to get more sleep and not play video games? “Cooper Kupp wouldn’t like that.” @AsapPuka pic.twitter.com/6ViTPHfN4p
— ryan anderson (@RLAndersonLAFB) February 8, 2024
Puka Nacua speaks on his relationship with Cooper Kupp on the Fantasy Football Happy Hour. pic.twitter.com/5DseNYjbQT
— Rotoworld Football (@rotoworld_fb) February 7, 2024
Receivers are notorious for being divas. And while that may have been more true when Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Terrell Owens were around, we still see players like Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens become distractions to their own teams when they aren’t as involved in the offense as they’d like.
We never heard a negative word from Kupp this season despite Nacua and Robinson being a larger part of LA’s passing game. Instead, Kupp kept his head down and contributed by helping Nacua adapt to the professional game from a mental standpoint. He was also a leader in the Los Angeles community and was the Rams’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his service to local food banks and to a local high school football team.
Even in a statistical down year Cooper Kupp managed to be one of the most important Rams teammates through leadership and his mentorship of rookie phenom Puka Nacua.