By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Less than three years after graduating from high school and coming to Iowa as an unheralded defensive back recruit, Amani Hooker believes that he is ready to play in the NFL.
The junior defensive back from Minneapolis announced on Instagram on Saturday that he plans to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
“This past season has been amazing for the team and myself personally and is one that I will cherish forever,” Hooker said. “With that being said, after serious discussion with friends, family and lots of prayer, I have decided to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. It has been a dream of mine since I was 5 years old, and now it’s my time for it to become a reality.”
Hooker has gone from being lightly recruited to a legitimate NFL prospect in just three seasons. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year this past season, and he carved out a new role for himself by playing both safety and linebacker, depending on what formation Iowa used.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Hooker has shown a knack for making big plays, perhaps his biggest being a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage against Ohio State last season. He returned the interception 30 yards for a touchdown and that would be the start of a stunning 55-24 Iowa victory at Kinnick Stadium.
Hooker did all of that after coming to Iowa with just one power five scholarship offer, and with just four offers overall from Iowa, New Mexico, Northern Iowa and South Dakota, according to the Rivals data base.
“It’s awesome,” Hooker said after Iowa's 27-22 victory over Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day in Tampa, Fla. “That’s what guys work for. Guys come here and they want to go to a place where they can try and get to the NFL and also compete at a high level against great competition. It’s a great opportunity.”
Hooker is the second Iowa player to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft, joining junior tight end Noah Fant, who declared shortly after the regular season and did not play in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Sophomore tight T.J. Hockenson and junior defensive end Anthony Nelson also are considering declaring for the draft.
Hockenson told the media after the Outback Bowl that he was 95 percent sure about his decision. He is expected to choose the NFL after winning the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate tight end.
Hooker would be the 13th Iowa defensive back taken in the draft during Kirk Ferentz’s 20 seasons as head coach. Hooker was also the 15th Iowa defensive back to make first-team All-Big Ten under Ferentz, and the 11th since 2009.