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'I don't know what you're going to do but you're not coming home.'
By John Porentas

COLUMBUS — Sometime a mother just has to put her foot down.

That's how it was for Angela Dennis, the mother of Malik Hooker, when Hooker decided that he didn't want to stay at Ohio State. He wanted to quit and come home because football just wasn't going well for him.

"His first year he tried to quit about seven times," said Ohio State Head Football Coach Urban Meyer after yesterday's 77-10 thrashing of Bowling Green.

Hooker didn't deny what Meyer said.

"Like Coach Meyer told you all, there were a few times I thought about this just wasn’t for me because when you first come in and you’re not playing a lot, you tend to think that it’s not for you. My mom helped me stick it out and everything and it ended up working out."

That may have been a bit of an understatement. His mom helped him out to the tune of telling him that if he quit the football team he wouldn't have a place to live, including home.

Angela Dennis
Photo by Dan Harker

"I just told him he couldn’t come home," said Dennis. 

"I felt like he had a great chance to do some big things and I wasn’t letting him ruin that."

Dennis had her heels dug in, but that doesn't mean that Hooker didn't try. His freshman year he made regular trips home with the intention of not coming back, but his mom was just as persistent as he was.

"He came home every weekend and he didn’t want to come back, so we would have to find him rides," said Dennis.

"My daughter would bring him home but we told him he couldn’t stay home, he had to come back."

Hooker, who was a basketball player in high school and didn't take up football until his junior year, just didn't see it working out for him as a football player at a place like Ohio State. 

"He never didn't start a (football) game in his whole entire life and he had to come here and sit a whole year," said Dennis.

"That was probably the most humbling thing for him."

Hooker agreed.

"I just started doubting myself a lot," Hooker said. "Just thinking this wasn’t the place for me because I felt like I didn’t fit in, I wasn’t playing a lot. Just special teams and stuff like that so I just tended to doubt myself a lot."

So Hooker began making the trips home with the intention of not coming back. To say that the trips were a little tense might be putting it mildly.

"He would go for long walks and not come back when he was supposed to and we would have to go looking for him," said Dennis.

"There were a couple of times when he didn’t want to come back."

"I came home on weekends. I’m like I ain’t going back. I’m going to try to sneak out," said Hooker.

"I tried that and my uncle came and found me. I tried to go to my cousin’s house. My aunt ended up calling my mom and I got found out. I tried so many things but they didn’t end up working out. I feel like it’s a part of God’s plan. You try so many things so many times and it don’t work then it’s just part of the plan."

Eventually football started to go a little better, and Hooker decided to stick it out

"I think he turned the corner the beginning of the next spring, coming into this past spring," said Dennis.

Hooker stuck it out and is a rising star in the OSU football program. He has made two appearances in Ohio Stadium, one in the spring game and one against Bowling Green, and he recorded two interceptions in each of those appearances. 

Malik Hooker (24) makes a spectacular interception against Bowling Green. 
Photo by Jim Davidson

Hooker has his mother's persistence to thank for his success. He also has some OSU coaches to thank, because his mom got a lot of encouragement from the OSU coaching staff in her fight to keep him in Columbus.

"I talked more to Coach Ash than Coach Meyer," said Dennis. 

"He told me 'Don’t let him quit,’ and Coach Fickell would say ‘Don’t let him quit,’ and also Malik’s basketball coach at home. He said ‘Don’t answer the phone when he calls.'"

It was no-holds barred warfare, and Mom won out.

"I think she’s a very strong lady who understands what’s best for her children," said current OSU safeties coach Greg Schianno. 

"Sometimes what young people think is best because it feels best right now, as parents we know that’s not the case.  It’s not always easy to put your foot down, but thank goodness she did."

Schiano is glad to have Hooker to coach. For his part, Hooker is really glad his mother put her foot down.

"Oh yeah. I tell her thank you every day. Her, Coach Meyer. I give some credit to Coach Ash too because he was doing the same thing. He stayed in contact with my mom, my uncle, my coaches, just telling them how I was feeling and everything. So it caused them to contact me and just pretty much comfort me and make me feel like I was at home still."

His mother's approach varied from sweet talk to tough love, whatever it took to keep Malik in Columbus.

"She was sort of both," he said. "If there were times when I needed for her to tell me to quit being a cry baby or stuff like that, she did that. If there were other times she felt like to comfort me, she did that as well. She just did all she could to make sure that I did what I was supposed to and ended up sticking it out."

Her approach varied, but her message was loud and clear, and it was always the same.

"I don’t know what you’re going to do but you’re not coming back home," she would tell Hooker.

Now he's glad she won out, and so is Buckeye Nation.

Player profiles relevant to story:
Coach - Meyer, Urban | Coach - Schiano, Greg
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