Malik Hooker

Indianapolis Colts safety Malik Hooker cheers on campers during the tug-of-war at his free youth camp Saturday at Taggart Stadium.

Malik Hooker started his week in France hanging out with Michael Jordan. He ended it by hosting more than 200 children for a free football camp Saturday morning at Taggart Stadium. 

Hooker, who is signed to an apparel contract with Jordan Brand and was overseas with other Jordan signees, had elementary- and middle school-aged children running through drills, playing games and listening to leadership talks on the field where the Indianapolis Colts safety jump started his football career in only two years of high school action.

“It’s amazing just to be able to come back and give back and just see all the smiles on these kids’ faces,” Hooker said. “It’s special to me.”

Though the camp was free of charge for participants, there was a rich list of coaches and alumni in attendance running and organizing drills.

Part of the reason there was no cost for attendance was because of Hooker’s own upbringing and didn’t want cost to be the reason a kid couldn’t sign up. 

“For me, my mother, my family, wasn’t financially stable so I know how it is with some of the kids out here,” Hooker said. “Their family might not have it. For me, it wasn’t about the money. I don’t want anybody’s money. It’s just so kids can come out here and have fun.”

The no-cost camp resonated with New Castle High coach Joe Cowart, who coached Hooker during his two seasons of high school football. 

“That just shows you his heart and mindset that he just wants to do right by the kids in my community and let these guys enjoy a day around star Division-I athletes, NFL football players, fabulous area coaches,” Cowart said. “It’s been an incredibly well-run camp and I know every kid here is having a blast just being in the presence of Malik. He’s not a guy standing on the side watching every drill. We’re watching him right now running around. He’s in every drill having a blast.”

Hooker was joined by teammate Tyquan Lewis, who plays for the Colts and was a defensive teammate with Hooker at Ohio State and former New Castle players Geno Stone (Iowa), Jake Lamont McPhatter (California, Pa.), Drew Allen (Robert Morris), Julian Cox (California, Pa.), Stephen Wethli (Youngstown State) and Malik’s brother, Marcus (Ohio State). Stone also brought teammate Ihmir Smith-Marsette to the camp, as did Cowart and his assistants and Union head coach Stacy Robinson.

“For the kids to come out here and be able to go for a camp where they’re being hosted for guys who are not only alumni, but are great athletes and people overall,” Hooker said. “That’s why I looked at it just getting the guys to do this camp, I looked at (and said), ‘Are these guys good athletes or are they a better person?’”

Hooker’s mother, Angela Dennis, said this is the first step in what will eventually become part of her son’s foundation which aims to serve at-risk youth and single parents. Hooker previously returned to New Castle in January to donate a new basketball scoreboard at George Washington Intermediate School for the youth basketball league. He also donated new uniforms for the Red Hurricane varsity boys basketball team prior to the 2017-18 season. 

Campers went through various position drills and then competed in a 50-yard dash and tug-of-war competitions. Campers were also treated to breakfast and lunch, with food donated by LCCAP’s Michelle Scott and city mayoral candidate Chris Frye, and left with a signed photograph of Hooker.  

Digital editor

Pete Sirianni is the News' digital editor. Previously, he worked at The Bradford (Pa.) Era. Sirianni is a 2016 IUP graduate, earning a degree in journalism and public relations. Contact him at psirianni@ncnewsonline.com or on Twitter at @PeterSirianni.

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