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Amani Hooker knows where he belongs. So to understand the significance of this week’s NFL draft for Brooklyn Park, you need to know about “the best to ever do it” at Park Center High School.

Paul Strong first watched Hooker, the youngest of four siblings born to Janice and Ray, in peewee football, but it wasn’t until a 14-year-old freshman arrived at Strong’s varsity football practice that he knew the kid was something. Hooker’s brother, Quinton, was a local star on his way to becoming Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball when Amani ran onto the football field as a defiant freshman.

Strong, then Park Center’s head coach, ordered all freshmen to separate from the group.

“He just stood on the sideline and wouldn’t go with the freshmen,” Strong recalled. “I was like, ‘He knows he’s supposed to be out here.’ I think we went two plays and I said, ‘Amani, get in.’ He literally threw the kid out of his spot.”

Hooker, the latest Hawkeyes defensive back ready for the NFL draft, was a star safety at Park Center before he became the reigning Big Ten defensive back of the year. He scored touchdowns for the Pirates from everywhere, including receiver, running back, quarterback and even punter, and was named a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Football in 2015. Yet he had just two FBS offers.

When the Gophers showed interest late, he’d tired of their hesitancy after multiple workouts and knew instead where he belonged — in Iowa City.

“Love who loves me,” Hooker told Strong when he committed to Iowa.

That love, extended through a supportive and competitive family, motivates the 5-11, 210-pound safety to punch above his weight class and make proud those in his close circle. Years of sweat will produce a milestone when his phone rings during the NFL draft on Friday or Saturday.

“No matter where I go, it’s going to be a dream come true,” said Hooker, 20. “Family and friends will be there. Not going to have a lot of people, but people that are close to me.”

A driven mentality was established early as the youngest child. His mother needed more than a few shouts to signal dinner and interrupt intense one-on-one basketball games in the driveway between Ray, Quinton and Amani.

Eventually Hooker realized his talents were best suited to football over basketball, which he initially pursued because of his father’s love for the sport and his brother’s success; Quinton is playing professionally in France and has a basketball jersey hanging in Park Center’s rafters.

Goals were set high between brothers. In dreamy childhood days, Hooker and his friends declared their athletic careers would put Brooklyn Park “on the map,” according to Strong. Jordan Sallis, the current Park Center coach, won’t forget the 2015 playoff game against Cooper, when Hooker scored six touchdowns (three receiving, two rushing, one on an interception) in a comeback win.

“When I say he is the best to ever walk through these doors, there’s no doubt in my mind,” said Sallis, a 2000 graduate of Park Center.

Hooker, the fourth Hawkeyes player in the past seven years to be named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, is a projected third- to fourth-round pick on his NFL.com draft profile. His position versatility is a fit for the modern NFL. He could be found at deep safety, cornerback and defending the slot for Iowa.

By the end of last season, according to Hawkeyes defensive coordinator Phil Parker, Hooker was almost exclusively playing a hybrid linebacker/safety role called the “star” position. It required quick, accurate decisions and an ability to cover tight ends, useful for NFL teams now combating the rise of athletic threats like ex-Hawkeyes standout George Kittle (whom Hooker practiced against) and Travis Kelce. Hooker said his competition in practice, including two likely first-round tight ends in T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, was often more difficult than what he faced in games on Saturdays.

“He can play all over the field,” Parker said.

Hooker keeps close to other Hawkeyes. He consulted with a few Iowa alumni, including NFL players Micah Hyde and Josh Jackson, before deciding to forgo his senior season and turn pro. But he rarely wears Iowa gear when he revisits Park Center, according to Strong.

“He wants to show that I’m still one of you guys,” Strong said.

In February, Hooker helped crowdfund about $1,200 for the Park Center football program through a Pledge-It campaign raising a dollar amount for every inch of his vertical jump at the NFL scouting combine. His 37-inch jump ranked fifth among safeties and equaled money for better equipment at his alma mater.

“He wants to give back to his community and always said if he was in a position, he’d love to,” Strong said. “Because he saw the struggles we had with raising money and stuff like that. He felt slighted, like all the other kids, because some of the other schools had more than what we got.”

He wants to help more once he gets to the NFL, where Hooker must prove he belongs. He has visited with the Titans and Vikings ahead of the draft this week. The Seahawks also have shown plenty of interest.

Wherever he goes, he’ll try to put Brooklyn Park “on the map.”

“Sometimes a lot of kids forget where they come from when they get to this stage,” Sallis said. “He never will, so we’re fortunate.”