Hendon Hooker's mother counted each pass from the touchline at Tennessee‘s Pro Day at the Anderson Training Center on Thursday.
She wanted him to throw no more than 15. He wanted to throw a lot more, especially as wideouts Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman caught the passes.
But Hooker, the former Vols quarterback still rehabbing a torn ACL, took it easy and threw a few short warm-up passes. Then he admitted that “it's hard not being able to go out here and do what I love.”
But mother probably knows best.
After all, Hooker's stock has risen in NFL projections despite being unable to take any physicals due to an injury suffered in Tennessee's Nov. 19 loss to South Carolina.
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Most mock drafts have Hooker going in the late first round or early second round. ESPN's Mike Tannenbaum even made the eye-opening projection that Hooker would go No. 5.
Hooker said he has spoken with all 32 NFL teams and apparently made a big impression.
“(I'm) just showing my football IQ and my character that I have and what I can bring to an organization,” Hooker said of those meetings. “Being able to show what you know (about football schedules) on the board should come naturally.”
Here are the updates on Hooker's health, his explanation of Tennessee's offense and his plans to watch the draft.
His knee will be ready for the 2023 NFL season
Hooker was among 14 Tennessee players who worked out for NFL scouts. Hyatt, Tillman, offensive tackle Darnell Wright and defensive end Byron Young are also expected to be in the top 100.
Hooker wore a compression sleeve on his left knee and watched others go through exercises to try to strengthen his hamstring. He hasn't been medically cleared to participate yet, but he's getting close.
Hooker said he'll be able to do five-step and seven-step drops to throw passes in a week and a half. He will be approved for straight running in three weeks.
“I saw my doctor on Monday and he said I should be fine (for the start of the season),” Hooker said. “I look forward to it.”
Hendon Hooker, Josh Heupel defend Tennessee offense
One criticism of Hooker is that he played in a quarterback-friendly, up-tempo offense at Tennessee that doesn't translate to the NFL.
Hooker and coach Josh Heupel disputed that suggestion.
“I get a lot of (offensive) scheme questions (from NFL personnel) and guys wanting to incorporate a lot of what we do,” Heupel said. “I think (Tennessee's offense) will transition well.
“A lot of what happens (in college) transfers up (to the NFL).”
The Vols ranked No. 1 in scoring offense and total offense last season. Hooker was a Heisman Trophy candidate with the second-best passer rating in college football, behind Ohio State's CJ Stroud, a projected top-5 pick.
“I'm not sure anybody in college football had more on their plate than Hendon did, and then you throw in the tempo that we play at,” Heupel said. “You have to be a quick decision maker. You have to recognize defensive structure extremely quickly. He controlled the entire game on every single play.”
What Hooker is telling NFL coaches about the Vols' offense
Hooker said NFL teams have seen film of Tennessee's offense and asked him about it. He believes they have come away with a greater appreciation of his responsibilities.
“The biggest thing (they ask) is about (pass) protection and what I do at scrimmage and how much control I have,” Hooker said. “And I explain what my process is and the different things I do at the line of scrimmage to take control of the offense.
“It's been cool (for them) to see the background of why we do things and how it's done to have the success we're having.
Hooker and Bryce Young talked football at the airport
Hooker believes his game is similar to NFL quarterbacks DeShaun Watson and maybe Josh Allen. But NFL teams are comparing him to the quartet of quarterbacks projected ahead of him in the 2023 draft.
Stroud, Alabama's Bryce Young, Florida's Anthony Richardson and Kentucky's Will Levis are ranked in the top ten picks. Hooker is at the top of the second tier of quarterbacks, but some mock drafts put him closer to the first tier.
Hooker said he has a healthy respect for the other quarterbacks and friendships with some of them.
“That quarterback brotherhood runs deep,” Hooker said. “Whenever we can, we talk ball. Me and Bryce Young talked about plays for an hour and a half in an airport.”
Where Hooker will watch the draft
The draft will be held April 27-29 in Kansas City, but Hooker will not be there.
Instead, he will watch from his hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina, with family.
Then his mother shouldn't have to rein him in anymore.
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