Super Bowl LI is about to begin, and this year, Austin Hooper will be one of the key players to watch.
Hooper is a tight end for the Atlanta Falcons, having been drafted from Stanford in 2016. He is 22 years old, 6’2″ and weighs 248 pounds.
Here’s what you need to know about Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper.
1. He Played For De La Salle High School
Austin Hooper was born on November 4th, 1994 in San Ramon, California; he attended De La Salle High School in Concord, California, where he was a quarterback for his freshman and sophomore years.
Hooper then played defensive end for De La Salle during his junior and senior years. Throughout these years playing defense, he performed 63 solo tackles and 27 assists, with an average of 3.3 tackles per game.
In 2013, Rivals.com named him one of the “sleepers who could surprise.” And in MaxPreps Freeman Rankings, De La Salle was ranked number one in the nation. De La Salle also ranked number one in the nation that year, a position it retained in 2014 and 2015.
2. He Was Recruited by Stanford University in 2013
Austin Hooper was recruited by Stanford University in 2013; he says that he chose Stanford because they were the only school to offer him a tight end position as opposed to a defensive line.
“Being a Cardinal is something I am very proud of,” he said in an interview with Fansided. “It means you have to work hard both in the classroom and on the field.”
Hooper added that coming from a defensive background is an advantage to him and influences how he plays.
“Coming from a defensive background, I try to play physical and never shy away from contact,” he told Fansided. “I pride myself on being a true tight end. One that blocks at a high level and runs clean routes, while making every catch that comes my way regardless of the circumstances.”
3. He Finished at Stanford With 74 Receptions
At Stanford, during the 2014 season, Hooper recorded 40 receptions, 499 total receiving yards and an average of 12.5 receiving yards per game, according to ESPN.
The following year, during the 2015 season, he recorded 34 receptions, 438 total receiving yards and an average of 12.9 receiving yards per game. Between the two years, that adds up to 74 receptions, 937 receiving yards and an average of 12.7 receiving yards per game.
He also finished the 2014 season with two receiving touchdowns and the 2015 season with six receiving touchdowns.
4. He Was Recruited to the Atlanta Falcons in the Third Round of the 2016 Draft
During the 2016 NFL draft, Austin Hooper was recruited to the Atlanta Falcons. He was the 18th pick in the third round and the 81st pick overall.
On the Atlanta Falcons fan site The Falcoholic, Hooper was described as the second best tight-end in the draft behind Hunter Henry; Henry ended up being drafted to the Los Angeles Chargers.
According to OverTheCap, Hooper started at the Falcons with a base salary of $450,000, which will go up to $540,000 in 2017 and $630,000 in 2018.
In the 2016 regular season, Hooper finished with 19 receptions, 271 total receiving yards and an average of 14.3 receiving yards per game. During the playoffs, he recorded three receptions for 33 yards. As pointed out by FanRag, of his 19 catches, 16 went for first down.
Hooper also scored three touchdowns during the season, two of which were from red-zone passes.
Falcons tight ends coach Wade Harman says he has been impressed with Austin Hooper.
“I’m really impressed with his work ethic,” Harman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s done some really good things as a rookie this year. He was in a tough position because he had to play. We really saw some really good things. I’ve been really pleased with his progress.”
5. He Was Sidelined in December 2016 Due to a Knee Injury
Hooper missed the last two games of the regular season due to a knee injury.
According to ESPN, Hooper suffered a Grade 1 medical collateral ligament sprain in his left knee during a December 18th game against the San Francisco 49s.
Hooper returned to practice on January 4th. He told ESPN that he was relieved the injury was not more serious and that he did not need to undergo surgery.
“We were just doing an outside zone-type play and somebody just fell on me at the right ankle,” Hooper said. “I knew instantly, when it happened, what happened. I had the same injury in high school in the opposite knee. It was almost the same exact experience when it happened. It was the same spot and the same grade.”
Hooper went on to say that he “lucked out for sure.”