Iowa Football

Iowa's Amani Hooker declares for NFL Draft

Junior safety was Big Ten defensive back of the year in 2018

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Amani Hooker (27) tries to whip up the home crowd after sacking Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson (18) during the first half of their Big Ten Conference college football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Amani Hooker (27) tries to whip up the home crowd after sacking Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson (18) during the first half of their Big Ten Conference college football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Junior safety Amani Hooker has decided to forgo his remaining eligibility at the University of Iowa and declare for the NFL draft, he announced Saturday on social media.

“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 wrote.

Hooker makes it two early entries so far for the Hawkeyes (9-4) in this year’s NFL Draft, which is in April, with tight end T.J. Hockenson and defensive end Anthony Nelson still in the process of making their decisions. In early December, Noah Fant declared for the draft and elected not to play in the Outback Bowl, a 27-22 Iowa win over No. 18 Mississippi State.


Hooker won the Big Ten’s defensive back of the year award. He also transitioned from a safety position to more of a hybrid role during the season, tying for the team lead with four interceptions. Hooker, a Minneapolis native and true junior, finished second on the team with 65 tackles. He also led the Hawkeyes with seven pass breakups.

“I am truly grateful for everyone who contributed in this whole process,” Hooker wrote. “It was an easy decision for me to choose Iowa as a junior in high school, and now Iowa is a place I can call home. I am excited for what the future holds and I will accept any challenges that awaits (sic) with God leading the way.”

Is there a trend here?

After cornerback Desmond King decided to return for his senior season in 2016, Iowa has seen four players declare early. After last season, cornerback Josh Jackson and offensive lineman James Daniels declared for the draft. They were selected in the second round and received contracts that totaled in the $6.5 million range.

King decided to come back to finish his degree. His NFL feedback was to work on his speed.

Did he lose money for returning to Iowa? Depends on what price you put on having a degree, but the contract numbers point to a yes.

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The Los Angeles Chargers selected King in the fifth round (151st overall). He was the 21st cornerback and the last of four Iowa players drafted in 2017.

King signed a four-year deal worth $2.7 million. His signing bonus was $280,000. King has played in every game during his two seasons in the NFL, with 12 starts. This season he had 62 tackles and three interceptions. He also returned a punt for a TD and averaged 13.8 yards on 23 returns.

King won the Thorpe Award, the nation’s top defensive back in 2015. That’s not an automatic first-round ticket, so there’s some projection. Even if in the 2016 draft he would’ve climbed halfway up the ladder from where he ended up in 2017, King might’ve been looking at a $3.2 million deal and an $800,000 signing bonus (according to Spotrac.com, a site that tracks NFL salaries).

In December, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz noted that the push from agents is go now and get your clocking ticking for contract No. 2, which ensures the big house and a mountain of Jet Skis.

“There’s some people on the outside that really sell that, because they’ve got nothing to lose,” Ferentz said. “It’s a game for them, but we’re talking about young people’s lives, and to me there’s a real responsibility there, so we try to get good, accurate information, and I think the NFL has stepped up their game from the panel, the committee, based on what I’ve seen.”

Hooker didn’t entertain any NFL talk after the bowl. He did post a picture from the Outback on his Instagram account with a caption “No limit to where I can take it.”

“He has the skills to play in the NFL, and, in due time, I think he’ll have that option,” Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said during Outback week. “He’s a really good football player. He was a good player in high school, he’s a good player now and I’m sure someday when he goes there, he’ll be a good football player in the NFL.”

“You dream of stuff like that, to get that chance and the opportunity,” Hooker said before the bowl. “ ... It is humbling, it’s awesome. You work all of the time to get there. My parents have always helped me out. It’s a cool experience for everyone.”

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