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Malik Hooker On NFL Debut: ‘I Was Out There Smiling Ear To Ear’

Posted Aug 14, 2017

Intro: Malik Hooker, the Indianapolis Colts’ 2016 first-round pick, made his professional debut Sunday in the team’s preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. What was the safety’s approach in his first NFL game?


INDIANAPOLIS — When you’re playing in your very first NFL game, nevermind if it’s the preseason or not, most players naturally tend to get at least a little bit anxious.

But when you’re a team’s first-round pick and you’re making your debut, the pressure has proven for some to feel insurmountable at times — and it shows on the field.

For Malik Hooker, however, Sunday’s 2017 preseason opener against the Detroit Lions was all about having fun and taking the experience in. After all, you only make your NFL debut once.

“Man, it was an exciting thing for me,” Hooker said after the game. “You know, it’s been seven months since I got out there and competed with a team overall, so for me to get out there and being able to play with a lot of great guys like Darius Butler, Vontae Davis, Matthias Farley — basically the whole defense — getting to know those guys and going out and competing with them, it’s been a great feeling for me.

“I was out there smiling from ear to ear today.”

The Colts were all smiles back in April, when the talented Ohio State safety, who intercepted seven passes in 2016, returning three for touchdowns, fell into their laps when they went on the clock with the 15th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

But both the Colts and Hooker knew they had to be patient in their approach with the talented defensive back, however, as he underwent two January surgeries to his shoulder and to correct a hernia — procedures that kept Hooker out of the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, and subsequently resulted in him sitting out the on-field portions of the Colts’ offseason workout program.

Then, just as he was getting ready to officially take the practice field for the first time with the team, Hooker tweaked his hamstring during a conditioning test at the start of training camp, pushing that milestone back a few days.

Hooker has since worked his way into the fray at the safety position at practices, getting the opportunity to showcase the elite athleticism and ball skills that turned him into a can’t-miss NFL prospect.

On Sunday, he entered the game midway through the first quarter, and it didn’t take long for him to find himself in the middle of things. On just his second play, he ran down and stopped Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay after a 15-yard reception for his first tackle.

Hooker would go on to collect four tackles on the afternoon — tying for the second-most on the team — as he played 23 total snaps; 20 with the defense, and three on special teams.

Most importantly, Hooker said he didn’t feel any sorts of effects from either his offseason surgeries or his recent hamstring injury.

“Oh yeah, I definitely feel comfortable,” he said. “Just from a health standpoint there haven’t been (any) setbacks or anything like that since I came back from the injury, and right now, just trusting in my coaches and doing whatever they think is best for me and getting me back into shape, get out there and compete.”

Hooker and the Colts’ next opportunity to compete in a game setting is Saturday, when they travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys, who feature a variety of weapons all over the field. And, just like he did on Sunday, Hooker said he’s not planning on putting too much pressure on himself to perform.

He’s just relying on his talents — and his coaches and teammates — to make plays, whenever they come.

“For me today, it was just to go out there and do your job. And I feel like when you do your job, plays come to you,” Hooker said. “I wasn’t trying to go out there and try to overdo myself because it was my first game back. I just feel like you’ve got to get back in the midst of things, you know? So that was my main thing — just get out there and just try to be the best Malik I can be.”




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