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Florida's Cooper picks football over baseball, aims to impress in NFL

MOBILE, Ala. -- Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper is setting his sights on the NFL, not the major leagues.

Cooper, a 25th-round draft pick of baseball's Texas Rangers, said Monday that he has decided to focus on a professional football career. He was set to receive half of his signing bonus at a scheduled physical Jan. 17, but it had to be put on hold while he was playing football.

"Football's definitely the route I want to take," Cooper said. "Toward the last couple of weeks of the football season, I knew that's what I wanted to do. That's my makeup, my mentality. I'm just a football player, not a baseball player."

Tim Tebow's favorite target started preparations for the Senior Bowl on Monday, along with his Gators quarterback. Cooper was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference pick this past season and led the team with 961 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

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Cooper figures he has more speed than NFL teams believe.

"They've got me down as a 4.5 in my 40," Cooper said. "The way I look at it is, all I can do is go up. I'm not a 4.5."

The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder plans to run the 40-yard dash again at the NFL Scouting Combine next month.

Giving up baseball won't be easy, Cooper said, but he's looking forward to having an offseason.

"I'm going to miss it," Cooper said. "I've been playing football and baseball my whole life. Now that it's gone and I'm only doing one sport, I'm going to miss it. But I think it's going to benefit me health-wise having an offseason for the first time since I was 13 years old."

Cooper said his roommate, Tebow, was supportive throughout the decision-making process. The two hooked up during Monday's practice just like their college days.

"I thought he did really well," Cooper said. "The passes to me were good, except one when he got hit in the back. Other than that, I thought he did well. He did a good job under center. He looked crisp."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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