Iverson Hooks wanted to find his way onto the field in his first college football season.
Never mind that the UAB true freshman was playing receiver for the first time since he picked up a football. Never mind that the slot receiver spot where he fits best includes a pair of players who are proven college players and another who UAB head coach Bryant Vincent said could develop one day into the best receiver in the program's history. Never mind that some would suggest that his 5-foot-10, 170-pounds was considered too small to play on an FBS team.
Yet, Hooks showed up ready to fight for a spot in the rotation.
"It was a thought," said Hooks, who goes by the nickname 'Strap.' "I had to get out here and work, but it was a thought."
UAB's depth chart for the Blazers' season opener against Alabama A&M will probably be released on Sunday or Monday. Expect to see Hooks' name listed among the receivers. It appears he played his way onto the field as a true freshman.
"Strap is a guy that's really gotten better," Vincent said. "He's grown, he's matured, he's electric, he's fast, his football IQ is off the charts. Expect Strap to do some special things this year."
Special things generally followed when Hooks stepped on the field as a quarterback for two years at Reeltown High and his final two seasons at Pike Road. Adversity also wasn't far away. Hooks had to battle back after twice tearing his ACL, the second time coming in his junior season.
As a senior, Hooks showed quickly that he was back at full strength. His first game numbers included 16 carries for 307 yards with five touchdowns and 5-of-6 passing for 219 yards with three touchdowns. Add it up, and Pike Ride opened the season with a 76-51 victory over McGill-Toolen.
That was just a start.
Pike Road outscored 14 opponents, 650-142, never had a final margin finish under double digits, and capped the unbeaten season with a 51-14 victory over Pleasant Grove in the Class 5A championship game at Protective Stadium.
Hooks had offers from 12 schools, but none were from a P5 conference. No one was more persistent than UAB receivers coach Larry Smith and the Blazers.
"We recruited Strap extremely hard. Coach Smith did a phenomenal job," Vincent said. "We felt like he was probably one of the diamonds in the rough we got in this class."
Hooks feels size had something to do with some schools backing away from him as a recruit.
"There are a bunch of people told me I was too small to play quarterback or too small to play D1 football," Hooks said. "I just look at it like, Devonta Smith was 160 pounds, and he won the Heisman. Plenty of smaller athletes out there are really good. I don't play by my size. I just go by my heart."
He also went a little bit by instinct, along with plenty of help from his new teammates, when he arrived at UAB as a receiver.
He showed up in June ready to work.
"I already knew some of the receivers coming in," Hooks said. "I knew they were great receivers. From my first day, I just learned from them. They just kept me positive and told me to keep my technique right. I've never played receiver, so coming in the first day, it was a struggle. I just took it day by day and got better. They're still teaching me today."
By the second week of fall camp, he was fully comfortable running routes. He made big plays and big catches on a daily basis and worked his way into a crowded rotation. He joins veterans Ryan Davis and Samario Rudolph at slot receiver, along with redshirt freshman Fred Farrier II.
All four are poised to do big things.
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