Lift off: Rangers QB aims to be next ‘Top Gun’

Photo by Hunter Tickel/Special To The Herald
Forest Park's Cooper Uebelhor (4) has been playing quarterback for the Rangers dating back to his freshman year. Now a senior, he will soon have aviation in his future. The Rangers fell to Tell City, 14-10, on Friday.  

Special To The Herald

TELL CITY — Senior quarterback Cooper Uebelhor wants to air out more than just the pigskin.

He wants to pilot planes — mission accomplished on Sept. 25, 2020.

The three-sport Forest Park athlete has been tossing spirals as the starting quarterback since Week 3 of his freshman year. On the hardwood, he puts up jumpers as a two-guard and small forward.

On Friday, the Rangers fell to Tell City, 14-10.

After his senior year wraps up, his ambition is aviation school at Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In addition to his lone time at the controls, he’s been on a plethora of ride-alongs at Huntingburg Regional Airport, and seen first-hand the nuances of getting off the ground while cruising at five-digit altitudes.

Uebelhor knew from the time that he was a 4-year-old that this expedition was his undertaking.

“I flew on my first flight down to Disney World and the pilot gave me a plastic set of wings and I just kind of liked it ever since,” Uebelhor said. “We took a flight last year for the class and that just sealed the deal, seeing everything and actually flying the plane.”

As a pilot in training for a private license, he said it’s nerve-racking.

“On some Fridays (Vincennes University Jasper) pays to rent the plane out and our teacher takes us up and we fly the plane around,” he said. “(Our teacher) gives us a chance to fly around in the air a little bit and follow the GPS.”

He goes to Southridge twice a week for aviation classes and then heads to the local landing strip to hone being well-rounded on all aspects of flight like aviation manager at the airport.

“I joke around with him a lot, I basically ask him every day, ‘Hey did you fly any planes today?’” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Grant Welp said.

On the gridiron he’s at the controls, too, Uebelhor’s swagger for this role has made headway since taking the quarterback reins.

“I think a big thing is confidence,” 10th-year coach Ross Fuhs said. “When you are a freshman, you probably don’t really want to go in and take the lead, so to speak. You kind of sit back and do what you're supposed to do, and not say a whole lot. I would definitely say leadership and confidence have probably been the two biggest areas of improvement for him.”

Coming into the game, he had made 29 starts and accounted for 29 touchdowns — 23 through the air and six on the ground — across his career.

His accountability has been a fixture for four years, even after nights like Friday when he completed 5-of-14 passes for 69 yards with two interceptions.

“He’s not pointing the finger, he’s definitely more critical of himself than he is of his teammates,” Welp said. “That’s pretty special at this age to have someone who is willing to take ownership of certain pieces.”

The program has posted back-to-back six-win campaigns, which is twofold. It came as a result of Uebelhor’s promotion in his first year, and from the expectations from Fuhs and his assistants.

“As my freshman year (went) through, (coaches) have definitely been more strict on us and wanted more out and expect way more out of us, which they always have,” Uebelhor said.

Now, the Rangers (1-2, 0-1) have a chance to compete for hardware.

“This year our goal is a conference championship and play for that sectional championship game and even win it,” Uebelhor said.

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