Among Indiana’s group of talented wide receivers, two have a unique relationship.
Omar Cooper Jr. and Donaven McCulley were not only high school teammates at Lawrence North in Indianapolis. McCulley was Cooper’s quarterback when they played together for the Wildcats.
McCulley moved to wide receiver ahead of his sophomore season at IU in 2022, as Cooper arrived in Bloomington. So this is their second year together in the Hoosiers receivers room. But as McCulley takes on an expanded role, and as Cooper emerges as a redshirt freshman, these longtime teammates are in more of a spotlight.
Their relationship, since they started playing the same position, has become stronger.
“It’s been different but it’s fun. We became way closer playing receiver together,” Cooper said. “We help each other out as much as possible. And then if somebody does something good we’ll point that out. But if we see something that, he sees something that I need to work on or I see something that he needs to work on, we’ll talk to each other about that to get each other just better. We know what we’ve been wanting to do and where we’re trying to get to.”
The duo experienced success in high school, helping Lawrence North to its first winning season in 15 years with a 7-4 record in 2020. A year later, when McCulley was a freshman at IU but Cooper was a senior at Lawrence North, the Wildcats captured their first sectional championship since 1990.
Cooper entered IU’s game against Indiana State on Friday without a catch in his collegiate career. He left with seven of them, and his first 100-yard game as a Hoosier.
When he learned his stat line after the game, he was shocked — he didn’t think he’d top 100 yards so early in his IU career. McCulley was proud of Cooper.
“It was exciting. I’m on the sidelines, watching him catch a hitch and turn upfield. I just love to see that. I love to see my brother eat,” McCulley said. “I’m just real close with Omar. That’s like my little brother. We’re real tight.”
McCulley, meanwhile, recorded four receptions for 58 yards against the Sycamores, after posting one six-yard catch against Ohio State. He was touted as one of the most improved players on the team heading into this season, and should continue to play a significant role in IU’s offense.
IU head coach Tom Allen praised both players on Monday. He said both Cooper and McCulley’s efforts in blocking shows their true character and buy-in to the team. And he said they both have persisted and bring a lot to the Hoosiers.
“When you think about last week, Omar didn’t have much production, and then, boom, over a hundred yards and a bunch of catches. I made a big deal about that. He stayed the course,” Allen said. “Donaven is a gifted player, and once again continues to elevate his play at receiver. And that’s got to continue to grow. Expect it even more this week, continue to become a complete player, both of those guys. They love to compete. They love to play the game, and they’re really talented guys that just I love having with us. Not surprised they’re doing well. Expected them to. And want to continue to see them grow and develop within our system and just keep bringing it every single week.”
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