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The Big Ten's defensive back of the year had another great game in Iowa's 27-22 win over Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

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Amani Hooker, the Big Ten Conference’s defensive back of the year who helped transform Iowa’s defense in 2018, is heading for the NFL.

Hooker announced his intention to leave Iowa on Saturday via social media.

The junior from Minneapolis became a Swiss Army knife for defensive coordinator Phil Parker. After starting Iowa’s first four games at strong safety, Hooker was moved into a hybrid linebacker/cornerback role as Parker transitioned to a primary 4-2-5 base defense for the final nine games.

And Hooker was outstanding, showing the ability to cover quick receivers such as Purdue’s Rondale Moore and tackle runners out of the backfield. With his help, Iowa led the Big Ten in scoring defense at 17.8 points per game.

Hooker’s size (6 feet, 210 pounds) gives him flexibility at the next level. He could be a free safety, a strong safety or most likely a slot cornerback — a coveted position in the NFL, where passing is the name of the game. It’s a role that former Hawkeye Desmond King has embraced with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Like King, Hooker has excellent ball skills, plus a mental savvy and physical toughness that will serve him well. He tied for the team lead with four interceptions, led the Hawkeyes with seven pass break-ups and was second with 65 tackles.

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