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Football: Malik Hooker unveils Jordan sponsorship as he continues labrum and hernia surgery recovery

Malik Hooker talks to the media at Ohio State’s Pro Day on March 23, 2017 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Screenshot Courtesy of Colin Hass-Hill | Assistant Sports Director

All 32 NFL teams were on hand at Ohio State’s Pro Day on Thursday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to watch the best athletes coach Urban Meyer’s program has to offer in the 2017 draft class.

But the best athlete wasn’t even competing.

Former OSU safety Malik Hooker was in the crowd of 122 NFL representatives that included seven general managers and nine head coaches. Dressed in a Michael Jordan “23” sweatshirt, Jordan brand shorts and shoes, the potential top-10 pick was talking with the NFL elites as he continues his recovery from his sports hernia and torn labrum surgeries in January.

Because of his injuries, Hooker isn’t able to showcase his skills that he displayed in the 2016 season, when he broke a school record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns and recorded a total seven interceptions. Lucky enough for Hooker, his work on the gridiron doesn’t need to be supported by gaudy measurables at combines or pro days to earn consideration as a top pick.

But that hasn’t stopped him from wishing he was performing for the teams who are interested in him.

“Just being anxious to get back out there and show everybody that, like I said about Marshon (Lattimore), I am who I am on film,” Hooker said. “Ain’t no secrets about it. (I) feel like that’s just more so just wanting to compete again. I haven’t ran since the Clemson game in January, so just trying to get back in the mix of things.”

Hooker said he has heard from nearly every NFL team, mostly discussing his injury, recovery and expected return time. For now, he said he’s ahead of schedule.

The All-American safety said he has started to run in the pool and is roughly eight weeks away from being back to full-time football activities. He also posted a video on Twitter last week of him catching a ball while side-shuffling on a treadmill.

“It’s more so just taking it step by step,” Hooker said. “I have to get my legs back under me and condition and stuff like that. It’s more so my body type of thing, waiting until my body feels like it’s ready to get back out there and compete.”

As the process continues until the NFL draft on April 27, Hooker said his patience is being tested. Not being able to go in the NFL Combine, not participating in his pro day and having to watch his teammates perform in the pro day makes it that much more difficult for a competitor like Hooker to remain patient in his rehabilitation process.

But he has found one thing to do in his spare time: sign a contract with the Jordan brand.

Hooker told reporters that he signed with the brand last week, which is why he was dressed in apparel designed with the image of the NBA legend.

“It’s definitely a great thing,” he said. “They don’t sign too many people. For me to be in that position to say that I signed with Jordan is definitely a blessing and a shocking thing for me.”

Former Buckeye cornerback Marshon Lattimore has recently climbed draft boards, projected as high as No. 3 to the Chicago Bears by NFL.com’s Charley Casserly. If Hooker was able to run in the 40-yard dash, or perform in any of the drills, his stock might have risen as well.

However, Hooker is still projected as a high first-round pick, likely in the top 10, and he said that worrying about his draft stock or where he will be selected takes away from the experience of preparing for the NFL.

“There’s a lot of great DBs in this group for sure,” he said. “So for me to be rated as a top DB is definitely an unbelievable thing and a blessing.”

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