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Cowboys safety Malik Hooker puts on a show against former team

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The former Colts safety had a career game in Dallas’ Week 13 thumping of Indianapolis.

Malik Hooker was expected to be a dynamic playmaker when the Indianapolis Colts made him the 15th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. He was definitely that last night, only now as a member of the Dallas Cowboys in their 54-19 shellacking of the Colts on Sunday Night Football.

Hooker had an interception and a fumble recovery in the blowout win. It was a night of career firsts for Hooker; having multiple turnovers in a game and scoring a touchdown since entering the NFL five years ago.

After a brilliant college run at Ohio State, Hooker was drafted by Indianapolis but immediately began having injury issues in training camp. He’d only play the first seven weeks of the season before landing on IR, and his next two years were also hampered by nagging health issues. He would only play in two games in 2020, tearing his Achilles in Week 2.

Having already decided not to pick up his fifth-year option, the Colts decided to move on from Hooker after his rookie deal expired. He remained a free agent in 2021 until training camps were starting around the league, and Hooker signed with Dallas where the opportunity at safety was wide open.

While not the impact addition that Jayron Kearse was last season, Hooker eventually outshined Damontae Kazee and earned another contract. He is now an equal sharer in a rotating trio with Kearse and Donovan Wilson as the safeties on one of the NFL’s best defenses in 2022.

Last night, Hooker easily had his best game so far as a Cowboy and arguably his best ever in the NFL. His interception and 26-yard return came at a crucial juncture late in the first half, ending a Colts’ attempt to take the lead before halftime and setting up Dallas to score another touchdown before the break.

Early in the fourth quarter, with the Colts still trailing by just nine points, Hooker again had a difference-making play. He scooped a fumble by Indianapolis TE Mo Alie-Cox and returned it 38 yards for the touchdown. In what was a back-and-forth game up to that point, Hooker’s scoring play seemed to set off the carnage of the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys would go on to score three more unanswered touchdowns in one of the most lopsided quarters the NFL’s ever seen. And while many players contributed to that historic beatdown, Malik Hooker’s big plays were arguably what established momentum at critical points throughout the night.

Just as it had to be tough for Colts fans to watch their former first-rounder playing a key part in Dallas’ success, it had to be sweet for Hooker to have this marquee night against his former club. Whether that gave him some extra juice in his play, or it just all came about circumstantially, it certainly makes for a good story.

If nothing else, last night gave Malik Hooker his time in the spotlight as part of this defense. Jayron Kearse is already one of the defensive leaders and Donovan Wilson has had his big moments. They’ve said for a while that this safety group is a three-headed monster, and Hooker validated that with his play against the Colts.


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