Associated Press - Ohio State All-American safety Malik Hooker is entering the NFL draft after one sensational season as a starter with the Buckeyes.
Hooker redshirted in his first year at Ohio State and played sparingly in 2015. This season he stepped into the starting lineup and led the Buckeyes in interceptions with seven, including a school-record three returned for touchdowns. He also made 74 tackles, third best on the team, and had 11 passes defended.
Hooker announced his intentions Monday with a post on Twitter. He thanked teachers, coaches and teammates for his growth "both as a football player and as a person."
He said after talking with his family, "we have decided its best for me to forgo my remaining two years of eligibility and declare for the 2017 NFL draft."
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has compared the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hooker to former NFL All-Pro safety Ed Reed.
Hooker is the first of several key Buckeyes players who will be making stay-or-go decisions in the next two weeks. Most notably, All-American H-back Curtis Samuel, cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley and linebacker Raekwon McMillan could be early round NFL draft picks if they give up their remaining eligibility.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett is not considered a top NFL prospect, but there has been some speculation about him turning pro instead of returning for a fifth season. After the Buckeyes' 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, Barrett indicated that is not likely.