Chris Cooley is used to waking up early. Playing professional football for nine years will make you a morning person. So will being a father, which is what Cooley has been since 2014 after the birth of his daughter, Sloane. Now he'll be one for radio purposes, too.
Red Zebra Broadcasting announced a new schedule of programming for ESPN 980/Redskins Radio on Friday, which most notably moves Cooley from his usual 4-7 p.m. time slot on "The Drive" to co-hosting a new morning show with Kevin Sheehan from 7-11 a.m.
"Cooley and Kevin," as it is consonantly called, will take the place of "Mike and Mike in the Morning" and will give Cooley both the practical and professional opportunity that he's been looking for as a radio host.
"I want this show to be fun," Cooley said. "I don't want people to think this show will be slapstick. It's going to be a smart sports show and it's going to be a really smart Redskins show.
"I think we can do a great sports show and integrate a lot of fun," he said. "And I want to be able to do that. Obviously, my one thought is with the afternoon show, especially over the last few years, instinctually, I can't just do the same take that's been done on radio all day. You have to take a fresh take or fresh approach if you're talking about the Nationals game or the Wizards game, people have heard why they won, how they won -- it's 'Create something different that people haven't heard.' And I don't think you have to do that in the morning. I think there's always got to be a smart take, but it can be the first take, which I love."
Cooley will regret not being able to work with Steve Czaban and Al Galdi, his co-hosts on "The Drive," who he said helped him learn about the industry and how to develop a good show. Both of them will remain with the station though will help host different shows.
Content-wise, Cooley says the morning show won't differ too much from his afternoon slot, but it gives him the freedom to start the conversation about topics without worrying about his ideas getting corrupted or taken innocently by another host.
"I love the idea of being able to form that first take and think through what are the things that are important about the games, what are the things that are important about what's happened in sports," he said. "A lot of time I have a first immediate thought and then throughout the day I hear shows in the market talking about things, and ESPN talking about things, and there's so many callers that say the previous caller just stole my thunder. I don't think I'll have to do that anymore."
Co-hosting with Kevin Sheehan will also be an exciting opportunity for Cooley, too, who has worked on the radio with him for game days and has helped host his show occasionally. He calls Sheehan his big brother.
"Kevin and I do a one-hour radio show on the phone every single day as friends talking sports," Cooley laughed. "He, ultimately, to me, has been a coach. He has really helped me in terms of direction in some of the segments that we have done, and we're going to continue those things. There is an absolute rapport there."
With free afternoons, the switch also allows Cooley to pursue being a high school football or wrestling coach if he chooses, and lends him more time to work on his new art studio in the evenings.
"I'm just really looking forward to it," he said. "It's a definite change on our side for our station. But it's a station that has a sports legacy in D.C. and I'm fully embracing what our station has done over the last 20 years and I think it's time for there to be a legit…great morning show and I think we can make a great run at that."