VIDEO: Austin Hooper, All-American
Concord (Calif.) De La Salle jumbo athlete Austin Hooper was one of the defensive stars of last week's Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, excelling throughout the week of practice, and, come game time, recording two tackles – both for losses -- and one sack, as he played a stout weak side defensive end for the West.
"It was fun. One of the reasons I was able to play like I did was that I was playing really relaxed and loose," Hooper said. "It was an all-star game, and at De La Salle, our defense has very strict responsibilities for each player, whereas that game, I was able to just go all-out. It was an all-star game, so I could get after the quarterback. I was free to do what I was taught at De La Salle and incorporate some of the things that I wanted to do. It was a lot of fun."
By the time all was said and done on Friday, Hooper was pretty beat, but he still made some time to visit the California football team's suite at the Anaheim Hilton.
"It was cool. I was only there for about 10 or 15 minutes, but I got to talk with the new coaches and stuff and it was pretty cool," said Hooper, who also brought along his parents to speak with the coaching staff. "They enjoyed meeting with the new coaching staff, and they really liked them."
Later in the evening, Hooper's parents had a lengthy chat with new defensive coordinator Andy Buh.
"My parents were downstairs, talking with coach Buh. He ended up meeting my parents downstairs and they wound up talking for about an hour," Hooper said.
While the Bears want Hooper as an athlete, Buh made no secret that he loved what Hooper can do on the defensive side of the ball. While Hooper has said that he is leaning towards playing tight end, he also said that he's "still trying to figure out," exactly what position will be best for him at the next level.
After talking with Buh, Hooper's parents came away with a better feeling for Cal.
"Some coaches, you get the feeling that they're pretty shady and what-not, but the coaches at Cal, they're a good staff," Hooper said. "They really seem like they know what they're doing."
While Hooper's parents got to know the coaching staff, Hooper himself got to spend a week with seven Cal commits -- including Spartans teammate Victor Egu -- who were continually in his ear about joining them in Berkeley next season.
"They did a lot. They're talking about the plusses and they were telling me why they felt so strong about why they committed to the new staff," Hooper said. "They told me about the environment of Berkeley. We talked a lot about it, and I understand everything about Cal. It's only 10 miles or so away and I'm up there all the time, whether it's to see Cal or not."
Hooper teamed for most of the week with Bears defensive line commit Garrett Hughes, and playing alongside the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder on the right side of the line gave Hooper a little glimpse about what his future could hold.
"It was very fun. I got to eat lunch with him a few times, I sat by him on the bus, and we talked a lot. He's a good guy, and I'm excited to see what he can do," Hooper said. "When I was with Garrett, he gave me a really good feel about who my potential future teammates could be. He's really a great guy."
When asked if the experience of playing alongside Hughes was a bit of a preview of his collegiate future, Hooper answered, coyly, "Yeah. Maybe."
For now, though, Hooper is going to take his time with the decision process.
"That's something that I'm not really too sure about," Hooper said. "Right now, this week, school just started up, so I'm looking at it, thinking about it, trying to leave no stone unturned and trying to see it all."
Ryan Gorcey publishes Cal Sports Digest and writes about Major League Baseball for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @RGBearTerritory.
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