Hawkeye football’s Hooker set to join NFL defensive back ranks

Iowa has a history of sending defensive backs into the NFL, and Amani Hooker is next in line.

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Hawkeye football’s Hooker set to join NFL defensive back ranks

Iowa defensive back Amani Hooker intercepts a Maryland pass during a football game between Iowa and Maryland in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Iowa defensive back Amani Hooker intercepts a Maryland pass during a football game between Iowa and Maryland in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa defensive back Amani Hooker intercepts a Maryland pass during a football game between Iowa and Maryland in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa defensive back Amani Hooker intercepts a Maryland pass during a football game between Iowa and Maryland in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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The Iowa football program has a long-standing history of churning out defensive backs for the NFL,as scouts and general managers at the next level are well aware.

Since 2012, five Hawkeye defensive backs have been selected in the NFL Draft: Jordan Bernstine and Shaun Prater in 2012, Micah Hyde in 2013, Desmond King in 2017, and Josh Jackson last year.

Hyde earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2017, and then this past season, King earned first-team All-Pro. Point being, Hawkeye defensive backs are no strangers to success in the NFL.

Next in line to carry on Iowa’s tradition? Amani Hooker.

“There are a lot of guys who aren’t even in this position who would love to be in my spot,” he said. “I’m having fun with it.”

While he’s not projected as a first-round pick, Hooker — a Minneapolis native — has captured plenty of attention after a stellar 2018 campaign.

Hooker was named the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year in the Big Ten and earned second-team All-American honors from both the Associated Press and USA Today after his first season as a full-time starter.

In 13 games, Hooker notched 65 tackles (3.5 for a loss) and 1 sack, defended 7 passes, and intercepted 4 passes. He also recorded a safety. On top of that, playing as a linebacker-safety hybrid, Hooker displayed prime versatility — which makes NFL scouts take note.

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“[He’s a] hybrid safety with an advanced feel for play design and recognition of where the ball is going and how to play it,” NFL analyst Lance Zierlein wrote on NFL.com “He could thrive in a ‘robber’ role or as a big nickel, where he can match up against pass-catching tight ends. He’s not twitchy, fast, or fluid and has some limitations in man coverage; however, he has the size, instincts, and ball skills to become a plus starter but needs to find his perfect scheme fit.”

On top of his third season with the Hawkeyes, Hooker performed well at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He ran a 4.48 40-yard dash, recorded 14 reps on bench press, and jumped 37 inches (vertical) and 123 (broad).

“Those are my expectations for myself — I have really high expectations for myself, especially at the Combine,” he said. “The times I got, I was expecting better times than that. I know some people didn’t have me running that fast, jumping that high, or whatever.”

Zierlein’s article reacting to Hooker’s Combine performance also included a quote from an anonymous AFC defensive-back coach — someone who had high praise for the 5-11, 210-pound safety.

“Eyes, instincts, I love all of that,” the coach said. “He’s not fast, but you can scheme around it, and he’s going to cover up some of it with how he sees the game.”

Recently, NFL.com’s Chad Reuter predicts Hooker will go to Minnesota in the second round with pick No. 50. Pro Football Focus has Hooker going in the second round to the Indianapolis Colts at the 59th pick, CBS Sports projects him as a third-round selection to Kansas City (92nd), and a 247 Sports mock draft had him going at No. 91 to the Los Angeles Chargers.

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