Joe Cowart sat behind his desk last spring and watched as students filed into his classroom. And every day he spotted a certain basketball player, the teacher/football coach always had a comment waiting.
"You look like an athlete who'd make the NFL," Cowart said one day.
That athlete, New Castle (Pa.) High School's Malik Hooker, would just smile and deflect that football talk. Playing on the hardwood was his first love, and how did Cowart know that he would succeed anyway? He hadn't even played football since eighth grade, and he was doing just fine at basketball. (He even made one of Sportscenter's top 10 plays for a dunk last month.)
But Cowart didn't relent and, soon, Hooker's friends joined in the chorus. So, Hooker figured, what did he have to lose? He expected to compete, expected to flash his athleticism -- but he never thought he'd be where is now, holding five offers from as close as in-state schools Penn State and Pittsburgh, with another 2,000 miles away in Arizona.