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Colts Welcome New Safety Malik Hooker To Indianapolis
April 28, 2017 09:08 PM | Kevin Bowen

INDIANAPOLIS -The dream, like it is for so many young boys, was to be a professional athlete.

Early on in Malik Hooker's high school life, that dream looked somewhat realistic.

Hooker's older sister put a basketball in Malik's hand at a young age.

In return, Hooker emerged as a college basketball recruit early in his high school career.

But everything changed just before Hooker's junior season at New Castle High School, located a little less than an hour north of Pittsburgh.

Western Pennsylvania is known for its high school football and the itch to play on Friday nights, plus a connection on the new coaching staff, eventually lured Hooker away from the hardwood and onto the gridiron.

A handful of years later, here was Hooker inside of the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Friday afternoon as a first-round draft pick of for the Indianapolis Colts.

"I didn't imagine it happening as fast as it did," Hooker said of becoming a professional football player.

"When the call came, I (saw) it was Indiana and I knew (the Colts picked) next. Automatically, I got chills down my back. My mom was looking at my phone before me and she started looking at me. The secretary answered the phone and said, 'Indianapolis Colts.' From there, I was just in the clouds. Everything happened so fast. The next thing I knew I was on a jet meeting the coaches and everything. I'm still in shock of how everything played out. To be considered a professional football player, it seemed like I started playing college football just recently. It's surreal to me still."

The days of 6-2 guards surviving in the NBA are dwindling.

That height in an NFL safety is coveted though, and it's one of several traits that had Hooker extremely high on the draft board of the Colts.

Hooker's two years of high school football experience, along with two seasons of playing at Ohio State (one as a starter) has many believing the ceiling is still high at the NFL level.

"That's the upside of my game," Hooker says of his untapped potential. "Obviously, I didn't have as many years as everyone else playing football in high school and at the college level. I just had to outwork and out prepare everybody. I was in the film room multiple times a day, (for) multiple hours.

"I definitely feel like there's still a lot of room for growth just because I only played one year (in college). I'm still filling out my talents and everything. I definitely feel like I still have room for improvement."

Pictured with jersey No. 29 on Friday, Hooker reported to his new home for (at least) the next handful of seasons.

The state of Indiana is rich in basketball history and that sport can be seen in Hooker's football game.

Hooker's lateral quickness from basketball is evident on his football film, roaming from one half of the field to another.

The seven interceptions Hooker had last season at Ohio State comes from his vision on the basketball court, says the 2016 All-American.

"With ball-hawking skills, you have to have hand-eye coordination to play basketball, too," Hooker says. "Being a point guard, having vision and having to see the whole court from the backcourt plays a major key and rolls over to football."

After Hooker patiently waited his turn at Ohio State, even pondering quitting the game, which was shunned by his mother, with a redshirt year and another season as a reserve, the coming out party was in 2016.

It took just one year of Hooker starting to ascend into a first-round pick.

"He does stuff you can't teach," fellow Ohio State first-round pick CB-Marshon Lattimore (Saints) says.

"He's a ball hawk. His play recognition is off the charts. He knows how to recognize schemes on an offense real fast. He's a great player."



The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.

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