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January 17, 2013Austin Hooper wasn't going to let anything stand in the way of the opportunity to play football at his dream school. Even if that attitude meant he'd have to retake the SAT multiple times. Or adjust his entire senior year class schedule to meet Stanford's rigorous academic requirements.
"I had to basically rearrange everything," Hooper told Cardinal Sports Report. "I took the SAT I think four or five times. I had to go to my dean and change up my schedule throw in two AP classes. I had to do a lot of changes to my schedule."
In the end, Hooper's hard work paid off. He found out he was officially admitted to Stanford over the weekend on his official visit to The Farm.
"When Coach Shaw told me I had been admitted, at first I didn't really even know how to react," Hooper said. "It was almost like I couldn't even process it. It was awesome. It didn't really hit me until the day after I was talking with my parents. I felt really good about it, I was really happy in the moment, but it didn't really hit me until the next day."
Hooper didn't wait that long before making his commitment. He delivered his verbal within seconds of receiving news of his admittance to Stanford.
"Like 10 seconds after that (I committed)," Hooper said. "(The coaches) knew if I was admitted I would go there so it wasn't a shock to them at all. The whole thing was just to get me in, because they knew I'm a hometown kid. You know people, watching Zach Ertz go through Stanford all four years... Just to get admitted and be a part of that program it's something special. Especially from the Bay Area."
That Hooper had work so hard to even have the opportunity to play football on The Farm made his commitment that much more fulfilling.
"That was the thing that made the commitment so rewarding," Hooper said. "Stanford asks things of you that no other school does. The process is hard. It's not easy. Not everyone is going to do it. I think that's what makes it so much more surreal once you do get in. You've been putting your head down working so hard for so long, once you get admitted it feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders."
For a while, though, it was unclear whether Stanford would even pursue Hooper. Since the Card won't sign a defensive line prospect in the 2013 class -- the position where Hooper was most heavily recruited -- Stanford wanted to evaluate Hooper as a tight end before offering. The Cardinal had an opportunity to do that when Hooper participated in Stanford's Friday Night Lights camp over summer.
"They weren't really sure on me as a recruit at that point," Hooper said. "They knew I could play and all that, but everyone recruited me for defense. I didn't really have too much tape of me offensively. They weren't really sure what they were getting. When I came out to the camp then they got to see everything up close. They liked that I played defense. They felt that I was physical and I hit people and everything, but they didn't know if I could run and catch. So at the Friday Night Lights that's what I had to prove to them."
Hooper passed the evaluation with flying colors. Stanford offered a few days after the camp, and immediately became a frontrunner in his recruitment.
"Once they offered me my focus really turned towards them." Hooper said.
Hooper brings a somewhat rare skill set out for a high school tight end. While many tight recruits are better catching the ball than blocking defensive linemen, Hooper is equally adept in both facets of the game.
"Hitting a guy who's bigger than you isn't always the easier part," Hooper said. "I think that's one of my strengths, that I can hit and not really care about whoever lines up in front of me, not really try and shy away from contact, just more to get after it. I think that's why the coaching staff offered me, they know that most of my offers are to play defense so I will hit people and I will be physical. Bringing that to the offensive side of the ball, they really like that."
Whether Hooper brings that physical attitude to the field next season as a true freshman remains to be seen. The departure of two Cardinal tight ends to the NFL will leave plenty of opportunity for a freshman to make an impact.
"You're going to have to compete wherever you go, but I like the opportunity that the guys that were starters are now gone so no positions really are a lock or anything like that," Hooper said. "Everything is out in the open. If you're ready to play then you'll play. There are no allegiances or no alliances to anything. The guys that started last year are gone, so it's now it's open season for whoever can fill the spot."
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