Alumni ’96: Josh Cooley
College life often contains twists and turns that no one can plan for. Josh Cooley, who graduated from Liberty in 1996, experienced that phenomenon.
The Silver Spring, Maryland native came to Liberty with a passion for sports writing. When he arrived in Lynchburg in the fall of 1992, he immediately got involved with the Champion newspaper by covering sporting events.
In the fall of 1993 (his sophomore year), multiple Champion staff members shuffled positions, creating an opening in the sports section. Cooley stepped in and became a co-editor of the sports section leading a team of writers to cover Liberty sports. He became the full-time editor in the spring of 1994.
“It was trial by fire,” Cooley said. He joined the staff in the era when pages were designed with the old cut and paste system, not with the current InDesign software.
While Cooley felt unprepared for the role, he remained flexible and took the opportunity, gaining valuable experience for post-college work.
“I’ve always been the type of person (who believes) even if God gives you an opportunity you’re not prepared for, go for it and see what happens,” Cooley said. “I wasn’t fully prepared and there were bumps along the way, but it was great for my career.”
Cooley said that the highlight of his time with the Champion was covering the men’s basketball team’s in 1994, the year the team earned their first NCAA tournament berth (they earned a 16 seed and faced top-ranked North Carolina, losing 71-51).
Cooley got his first break in the industry near Washington D.C. and engineered a successful 11-year career as a sports reporter and editor for various publications including the The Prince George’s Sentinel, The Gazette Newspapers and The Baltimore Examiner.
But the long and unconventional hours of Cooley’s position put him at a crossroads for his future. His work often separated him from his wife Kelly and their two infant daughters.
In 2007, a pastor at his local church where he served approached him and asked him to serve as children’s director. Cooley accepted the role, which yielded surprising long-term results.
“I had a great position (as an editor for the Examiner) with a big office and a great view of the city, but everything happened on nights and weekends and I wasn’t seeing my kids that much,” Cooley said.
Despite leaving the sports editorial path behind him, his writing career was far from over.
Thirteen years later, Cooley is living in North Carolina, and he and Kelly have welcomed two more daughters into the world. He currently serves as head children’s minister at the Chapel Hill Bible Church while still doing freelance writing.
Cooley has written for roughly 30 print and online publications, including Sports Illustrated. Furthermore, he has written or co-written 12 books, which include Bears quarterback and Liberty online student Nick Foles autobiography, Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds.
He has also used his writing skill, Bible knowledge and heart for reaching young readers to write a series of Christian devotionals entitled The One Year Devotions with Jesus: 365 Devotions to Help You Know and Love the Savior. In October 2020, his latest work Creator, Father King – a One Year Journey with God ,was “ written to help teens learn more about God and see His love.”
Cooley’s current life looks far different than how he would have scripted it when he first set foot on Liberty’s campus nearly three decades ago. But through all the unexpected changes, he has a fresh perspective about how to approach life.
“God sometimes has different plans for our lives, and I never would’ve guessed back then how life would have unfolded,” Cooley said. “God has met me every step of the way and has always provided really neat opportunities and shown me gifts and interests that I had that I didn’t even know existed.”
John Simmons is the Web Manager. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSimmonsJr7.