Ray Sanchez, cousin of NFL football player Marquis Cooper, talks on a cell phone at the U.S. Coast Guard station in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The family of Oakland Raider Marquis Cooper says they have decided to discontinue their search for the 26-year-old man and two friends still missing in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a statement released Friday, Bruce Cooper said his family is beginning the healing process, and needs time to be together and remember his son. Cooper described his son as a great father and husband.
The football player was aboard a 21-foot fishing boat last Saturday evening when it capsized in rough seas. Only former University of South Florida player Nick Schuyler was found alive.
The Coast Guard called off its search on Tuesday, but the Cooper family had remained optimistic, enlisting private pilots and charter boats to continue the search.
Raider head coach Tom Cable paid tribute Cooper earlier in the week calling him "a leader" and someone who "impacted our team" after joining Nov. 5 for its last eight games of the 2008 season.
Cable said he's "very saddened" by Cooper's disappearance and called it "a tragic event."
Cooper grew up in Arizona and played college football at the University of Washington. He and his wife have a 3-year-old daughter, Cable said.
Cable said Cooper "had a tremendous impact on our team both on the field and in the locker room" even though he only was with the team for eight games.
Even though Cooper mainly played on special teams on kick-return plays, his contributions were valuable enough that he was awarded game balls for two games, Cable said.
The coach praised Cooper's character and helped the team "get our mindset in the right direction" at the end of the season, when the Raiders won several games after starting the season with many losses.
Cable said that even though Cooper never was a star and played with six different teams in his five seasons in pro football, he always stayed in shape and was able to contribute to the teams he played for.
"He enjoys practice and the grind," Cable said. "He has the attitude that 'I love what I'm doing' and he does the hard work that's not always fun."
Cooper was also religious, the coach said.
"Every Saturday night when I came to the chapel, there he was," Cable said.
Cable said, "I knew Marquis had a passion for fishing" and was aware that Cooper had fished with Smith, Bleakley and Schuyler on previous occasions.
In fact, Cooper was fishing in the Tampa Bay area two days before the Raiders signed him in November, Cable said.
Cable said Cooper and his wife "loved" the Tampa Bay area because the first pro team he played for was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers so they kept their home there.
Cooper and Smith were teammates at Tampa Bay and remained friends, he said.
Cable said he assumes that Cooper had taken proper precautions and had safety equipment on board because he was an experienced fisherman.
"I'm sure everything was fine, but we can't control the weather," Cable said.
Schuyler is in good condition but will remain in intensive care at Tampa General for at least several more days, according to hospital spokesman John Dunn.