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Veteran tight end Austin Hooper has learned to be ‘a jack of all trades’ on the way to the Patriots

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By: Oliver Thomas

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

New England marks the fifth NFL stop for the former Pro Bowler.

The New England Patriots mark Austin Hooper’s fifth team in nine years.

The veteran tight end knows longevity requires adaptability. He has learned to be a little of everything.

His NFL road brought stops with the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders before agreeing to terms in free agency on a one-year deal carrying a base value of $3 million.

“It’s just like that 10,000 hours theory, right? The more you do anything, the better you get at it,” Hooper told reporters during his introductory video conference on Thursday. “I’ve been in a bunch of different offenses, whether it be gap scheme, outside zone, play-action passing game, short-to-intermediate passing attacks. It’s cool when you get to be a part of five different offenses, six different offenses, including some changes. Yeah, so you learn to kind of be a jack of all trades at everything.”

Hooper stands 122 games into an NFL run that has brought 364 receptions for 3,702 yards and 25 touchdowns.

He doesn’t know who will be the next starting quarterback in Foxborough. But since entering the league in the third round of the 2016 draft, the 6-foot-4, 254-pound Stanford product has caught passes from Matt Ryan, Baker Mayfield, Ryan Tannehill, Aidan O’Connell, Matt Schaub, Jimmy Garoppolo, Malik Willis, Case Keenum, Joshua Dobbs and Brian Hoyer.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Derrick Henry looked his way, too.

“If you’re in the right spot at the right time, the quarterback loves that. And if you do that consistently, he’ll like you more,” Hooper said. “It’s not that deep, I swear. It’s just like, ‘Hey man, he’s going to get hit. He’s going to throw this ball to a point in space. Can he trust that you’re going to go in front of that defender and not make him look like an idiot in front of 10 million people?’ To just put it as bluntly as possible, that’s kind of what it is a lot of the time, right?”

Hooper earned consecutive Pro Bowl honors with the organization that filled out his card at No. 81 overall. From Atlanta to Cleveland he went in 2020, working alongside past and present offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, before moving on to Tennessee in 2022 and Las Vegas in 2023.

The skillset has changed with the scenery.

“When I was a young boy in Atlanta, I was in the slot 50 percent of the time,” Hooper said. “And then in Cleveland, I was inline a bunch and really had to tool up that part of my game in the AFC North — blocking gap scheme, blocking outside zone. I guess it’s kind of like that jack-of-all-trades guy. I used to take pride in just being the pass-catcher. Not that I didn’t take pride in the run game before — that’s not the picture I’m trying to paint here at all. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely put more tools in my toolbelt in the run game, for sure.”

Last season, Hooper was kept out of the end zone for the first time in his NFL career. His 31 targets checked in as the fewest since his rookie campaign.

The stint in the AFC West spanned 53 percent of the offensive snaps while sharing a depth chart with rookie tight end Michael Mayer. Pro Football Focus charted him for logging 406 downs on the line, 106 downs in the slot, 38 downs out wide as well as six downs in the backfield.

“I pride myself off of being that jack-of-all-trades type guy,” added Hooper. “A guy who can be comfortable in the slot, be comfortable inline. If you need me in the backfield picking up blitzers, I’ve done that. Again, being in so many different offenses, I’ve been asked to do so many different things. With that at first, it was a lot of, to be honest, discomfort, right? Everyone likes to be in their own comfort zone. But being through all those different experiences have allowed me to become more comfortable with so many different aspects of the position.”

The 29-year-old now enters a position with the Patriots that also includes team captain Hunter Henry and La’Michael Pettway under contract.

Originally posted on Pats Pulpit