Family and Football: Amani Hooker

By Christian Kaposy

 

For athletes that make it to the professional ranks, people often remind them to not forget where they come from. With Amani Hooker’s ties to his family and his hometown, he needs no reminding.

Amani’s brother, Quinton, was a standout basketball player at Park Center High School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Surpassing the 2,000 point mark during his varsity career, Quinton was named Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during his senior year. After playing four years at North Dakota, Quinton took his talents overseas, where he is still playing. Quinton created some fans with his play on the court, but there might not be a bigger fan than his younger brother.

“He set the tone for me coming into high school,” said Amani, who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. “He set a high standard for me in the classroom and off the field. That’s my role model and that is who I want to be like.” Look at both of their accolades and you will find that Amani has done just that. A finalist for Mr. Football in Minnesota, Amani continued his athletic success at Iowa. And just like his brother, Amani has made it to the big leagues.   

During his junior year at Iowa, a change in defensive scheme midseason moved Hooker to a position that the Hawkeyes termed the “star” position. This change allowed the Iowa defense to insert a third safety, while Hooker played a hybrid linebacker/safety. For some, a change like this in the middle of the season could be a difficult adjustment. Although Hooker had not played that position, he was very familiar with the new concept. “I have always watched Minkah Fitzpatrick play, and he was playing that position in college when I was in high school.” Hooker must have watched Fitzpatrick closely, because he excelled in the new role. Recording sixty-five tackles, intercepting four passes, and deflecting seven, he was named Defensive Back of the Year in the Big Ten.

Although he has only been with the Titans organization for over a month, Hooker has caught the eye of several of his coaches. Knowing his past, secondary coach Kerry Coombs can use Hooker in several spots. “His versatility is very helpful, very valuable. He is a hard worker. He is a good learner,” said Coombs. At Iowa, Hooker went head-to-head with talented tight ends in practice, such as T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, and George Kittle. Coombs finds that his past experience covering tight ends will be beneficial. “If you play safety for the Titans, you are going to cover tight ends.” special teams coach Craig Aukerman is also excited to utilize Hooker in special teams packages and possibly in the return game. “Amani is doing a good job of trying to get better and learn our system. We are going to give him a chance.”    

After all his success, it is still as important as ever for Hooker to give back to his Park Center community. As he tried to impress teams in the NFL Combine this past February, Hooker was also raising money for the football program at Park Center. Fans of Hooker pledged to donate a specific dollar amount for each inch of his vertical jump. This fundraiser was an opportunity for Hooker to showcase appreciation for his alma mater. “The coaches and teachers there had a huge impact on my life and my career. I feel like it is my responsibility to give back to the guys who are coming behind me.”   

While his time at Park Center and his family have played a major role in crafting his drive and work ethic, a summer job also contributed to the player he has become. “One summer in college after my freshman year I did a little construction with teammates,” Hooker explained. “We were breaking down some walls, moving some tiles. It was a tough job.” His new job with the Titans might be just as tough, but it will for sure be more enjoyable.

 

 

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