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Hawkeyes’ Hooker leaves for NFL draft | Hawkmania.com Iowa Hawkeyes football, basketball, wrestling and more sports

Amani Hooker has decided to pursue his NFL dream.

The Iowa junior, named the Big Ten defensive back of the year, announced Saturday in a letter addressed to “Hawkeye nation” that he will follow teammate Noah Fant and become the second member of this year’s Hawkeyes to declare for early entry into the NFL draft.

“This past season has been amazing for the team and myself personally and is one that I will cherish forever. That being said, after serious discussion with my friends, family and lots of prayer, I have decided to declare for the 2019 NFL draft,” Hooker wrote.

“It has been a dream of mine since I was five years old, and now it’s my time for it to become a reality.”

That decision follows a dominant season for Hooker, who started five games at strong safety and eight games at a hybrid outside linebacker/safety position for the Hawkeyes during their recently completed 9-4 season.

The athleticism of the 6-foot, 210-pound Minneapolis native allowed Hooker to effectively move into the hybrid role, a new position for Iowa that provided greater ability to match up with the growing number of spread offensive attacks the Hawkeyes are facing annually.

Hooker finished the season with 65 tackles, second on the team behind fellow safety Jake Gervase.

He led Iowa with seven pass break ups and shared the team lead with four interceptions in addition to recording 3.5 tackles for a loss.

In announcing his decision, Hooker thanks fans for helping “create memories that will last a lifetime.”

He went on to thank his coaches, teammates and academic support staff from the only power-five program to offer him a scholarship following his all-state career at Park Center High School in the Twin Cities.

“I would especially like to thank coach Kirk Ferentz and coach (Chris) Doyle for believing in me from the beginning and always being more than just a coach but a mentor,” Hooker wrote.

“Thank you to coach Phil Parker and Seth Wallace, who have believed in me when not many did in the recruiting process. They taught me more than just X’s and O’s, but to be the best man possible.”

He concluded with words of thanks to his teammates and appreciation for his experiences at Iowa.

“To my teammates, who have become my brothers, thank you for pushing me to be the best version of me. We have built relationships that will last a lifetime,” Hooker wrote.

Parker, the Iowa defensive coordinator and secondary coach, said prior to Iowa’s Outback Bowl game that he believed Hooker would find success at the next level whenever he chose to make that decision.

“He will play in the NFL in due time,” Parker said. “He’s a good football player. He was a good player in high school. He is a good player now. He has proven he has the ability to move, he has the footwork and the skill it takes to be a good player in the future at the next level. There isn’t any doubt in my mind.”

Last month, Hooker became the fourth Hawkeye to win the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year Award. A first-team all-Big Ten selection of both league coaches and a media panel, he followed Micah Hyde in 2012, Desmond King in 2015 and Josh Jackson in 2017 in winning the award.

He recorded six tackles, including a pair of open-field stops, during the Hawkeyes’ 27-22 win over Mississippi State on Tuesday in the Outback Bowl.

Hooker’s decision follows the decision by Fant, an all-Big Ten tight end, last month to forego his senior season as well and pursue professional opportunities.

“It was an easy decision for me to choose Iowa as a junior in high school and now Iowa is a place I call home,” Hooker wrote. “I am excited for what the future holds and I will accept any challenges that await with God leading the way. Thank you Hawkeye nation.”

Two other Hawkeyes continue to mull those possibilities as well.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson and defensive end Anthony Nelson also said during Outback Bowl media opportunities that they had received feedback after filing paperwork with the NFL Draft Advisory Board.

They have not publicly announced their intentions but face a Jan. 14 deadline to declare if they intend to bypass their final seasons of collegiate eligibility.

Hockenson said Tuesday he was “95 percent sure” he knew what his next step would be but planned to spend time with family and friends as he thoroughly reviewed his decision.

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