After a stellar sophomore season at Ohio State in which he led the Big Ten with seven interceptions, Malik Hooker was selected No. 15 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. Just a few weeks into his professional career, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound safety is making a difference in the Colts’ defensive backfield.
Here’s what you should know about the rookie safety.
What to know about Malik Hooker
1. Hooker was a basketball star in high school, not a football star
At New Castle High School in New Castle, Pennsylvania, Hooker was a Division I basketball prospect, dropping 36 points in a game in front of Urban Meyer right before national signing day for football.
During his basketball career, he helped his team to a 54-2 record as a sophomore and junior and won two WPIAL championships. In 2012-13, he was named to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Fabulous 5 basketball team.
He started playing football in 2012 and was a dynamic receiver and defensive back in high school, coming to the Buckeyes as a 3-star recruit viewed as a project player.
2. He’s a freak athlete.
To dominate in both basketball and football in high school is not an easy feat. And once Hooker got to the Buckeyes, he started to put his talents on display.
He played mostly on special teams his freshman year, but during the 2016 season he had seven interceptions from his safety position including three returned for a touchdown. He also was third on the team with 67 tackles and have five for a loss and got named to a plethora of first team awards.
In his NFL.com draft profile, written by Lance Zierlein, there were phrases such as, “has fluid movement of a basketball player in space,” and “leans and bends into his turns for greater body control,” and “has loose hips for sudden stop-start to cover in space. Great ball skills.”
Need more proof? Here’s some video:
Malik Hooker's third pick in 6 quarters of football. This one good for a touchdown. https://t.co/7fiOOGQNJY
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) September 10, 2016
Malik Hooker PICK SIX!!!!! pic.twitter.com/sS7YztEw2y
— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) November 26, 2016
3. He’s a little raw
Hooker played only two years of football in high school and two years of football with the Buckeyes, and he only really has one year of experience as a college safety.
Both Zierlien and CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler harped on his angles and his tackling, saying that he’s a little bit wild and his tackling mechanics aren’t great.
But this quote from Zierlein clears up a little bit of the worries.
“His lack of game experience and issues with tackle consistency will likely show themselves early in his career, but his ability to flip the field is worthy of an aggressive projection.”
4. He’s got a deal with the Jordan Brand.
Look good, feel good, play good (well) right? Hooker signed with Jordan this spring and was rocking the company’s gear in an interview.
The Jordan Brand is known for going after only the best players in football and basketball and only signed two rookies in the previous year.
He joins star NFL wideout Dez Bryant and star safety Earl Thomas on the Jordan roster.
“It’s definitely a great thing. They don’t sign too many people,” he told reporters. “…For me to be in that position to say that I signed with Jordan, it’s definitely a blessing.”
5. He got his first NFL interception in only his second career game
Hooker did not wait long to introduce himself to NFL quarterbacks. In the Colts’ Week 2 game against the Cardinals, Hooker leapt in front of a pass from three-time Pro Bowler Carson Palmer for his first career interception. Hooker ran back the pick to the 36-yard line, giving his team strong field position just before halftime.
Hooker is already showing that being a ball hawk is one skill that translates to the NFL.
First career start. First career interception.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 17, 2017