Jailen Cooper has grown up loving one thing: The Oakland Raiders. But before his wish was granted, Jailen had never seen his favorite team play in person. In fact, he had never been to the state of California. That all changed when the Make-A-Wish Foundation arranged for Jailen to see the Raiders practice earlier this summer.
Jailen's mother, Jessie Cooper, discussed the highlights of her son's My Wish experience with ESPN.com.
What was your first reaction when you found out that your son would be getting his wish?
I was so excited for him because, as I tell everybody, he's a big football fan, but with his illness, he has not been able to play.
How did Jailen find out that he was getting his wish?
He knew he was getting his wish because the Make-A-Wish Foundation had just sent us a letter. But the whole time, we thought we were going in August, [and we actually went in May]. That news was broken to him by ESPN camera crews coming to the house. He had no idea who they were; he was just kind of going with the flow. Then toward the end of the interview, [Raiders] coach [Tom] Cable called the house and invited him to come out the next week.
Did coach Cable talk to Jailen when he called?
Yes. He called, and Jailen answered the phone. I couldn't hear the conversation, but I could tell that Jailen got a little nervous when he realized who it was. He was like, "Yes sir" and everything like that. Coach Cable told him, "See you next week." That was a very exciting moment.
Could you walk me through his day with the Raiders?
When we first got there, we were greeted by Hall of Famer Willie Brown, which was exciting. They took us upstairs, showed us a little bit of the field. He got to see the Super Bowl trophies and hold them. He got to take his own little headshot because he was becoming a Raider.
We met Nnamdi Asomugha. He talked to Jailen and took a few pictures. And then they whisked Jailen off after that. I don't really know what happened between then and the time we were on the field. I know he went down to the locker room and saw [Asomugha's] locker. He got to meet Darren [McFadden]. He got taped up; he said he got the "Nnamdi special" on his fingers. That was one of his highlights. And then they took him out on the field. He was leading the warm-ups. He was just all over the field, doing everything with everybody. He got to throw the ball to Darren. He got to be out there with the running backs, doing their drills. He got to tackle Darren McFadden, too.
He did his press conference near the end, and I was in awe.
He had a press conference? What happened there?
There was a lot of media out there. I guess they had heard about what was going on, so he and Coach Cable went up to the podium. Jailen just kind of took over. Coach Cable introduced him to everybody, and Jailen was like, "Does anyone have any questions?" They started asking him questions. And he just started talking and being himself.
How did he become a Raiders fan living all the way out in North Carolina?
Actually, it is because of my stepfather. He was always a huge Oakland Raiders fan. He loved the Raiders, and Jailen and my stepfather were very close. Naturally, since he liked the Raiders, Jailen was going to like the Raiders, too.
My stepdad passed away in 2006. I still remember this to the day -- my stepfather's passing was sudden. I picked Jailen up from a weekend with my mom and my stepdad, and the last thing he said to Jailen was "Get all smiley faces this week [at school]." And they always used to do this little [fist] pound and say "Raiders forever." That was the last thing he said to Jailen, and he never forgot.
Looking back on your trip, what will you remember the most?
The thing that I remember the most is just seeing his face when he was able to tackle [Darren McFadden]. That was probably the best moment for me just because it was something that he really wanted to do. Somebody took a picture -- I just saw a picture -- of him on the ground, and he was just smiling so big. That was wonderful to me. I love his smile.
Anything else you can think to add?
It was a great experience, and I'm really thankful he was able to have it. His [medical] prognosis and everything is good. We just go to the doctor [occasionally]; we don't have to go as much. So it's a great way to end this journey that he has had to go through the last few years.