Since graduating from Mountain View High in 2002, Trevor Hooper traveled as far as Buffalo to pursue his love for football before finding another passion – helping others.
A standout running back and defensive back for the Spartans who became a star safety at Stanford University, Hooper’s dream of playing pro football ended in 2007 when he was released by the Buffalo Bills. He returned to the Bay Area to start the next chapter of his life, working in the corporate world and for a nonprofit before finding a job that has a foothold in both.
As an executive recruiter for Russell Reynolds Associates, which specializes in social justice practice, Hooper collaborates with nonprofits focused on improving their communities.
“I want to contribute my time in a way that has as much impact on others as possible,” said the Los Altos native, whose resume includes working for San Francisco startup Year Up and the nonprofit Mural Music and Arts Project in East Palo Alto.
Although his football career has been over for more than a decade, Hooper’s interest in the game has not waned. The San Francisco resident is a season-ticket holder for Stanford football and said he remains in contact with several of his former teammates. He also helps former NFL players through The Trust – backed by the National Football League Players Association – which assists players as they transition to life after football.
Whether it be in the office or on the field, Hooper said he takes pride in making a positive impact on the people around him. He relates his ability to do so with the many goals he’s set throughout his life.
“It’s important to set (goals),” said Hooper, who is set to get married in October. “You don’t quite know how you’re going to get there, the road is choppy, but it’s all about the journey toward what you want to accomplish. ... In high school I wanted to play college football, in college I wanted to be a team captain, starter and to get to the league, and I got a taste of it.”
Kicking off his career
Hooper’s first taste of football came in high school. Before that, he grew up playing an array of other sports while attending Springer and then Blach Intermediate School. Like many kids, he spent his summers at the Decathlon Sports Camp.
“Shout-out (to Decathlon Sports Camp),” said Hooper, whose family comprises older sister Meghan Hooper, dad Stix Hooper and mom Marcy Dockery. “It was a great time, good memories, but I say that because playing all those sports contributed to football.”
In his senior season at Mountain View, Hooper rushed for more than 1,000 yards as part of a one-two punch backfield that also featured his good friend J.D. Nelson, who went on to play at the University of Oregon. They combined to rush for more than 3,000 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns in 2001.
“As a duo, we started off strong,” Hooper said. “There was an element that we couldn’t be beat and we ended up winning our league.”
The Spartans went 8-2 and won the SCVAL El Camino Division, earning their first Central Coast Section playoff bid since 1997.
Hooper said several colleges recruited him – including multiple Ivy League schools and the University of Washington – but he chose Stanford.
“I took care of my school. I was always into my classes,” he said. “I had a supportive homelife. ... I was fortunate to have the time and space to dedicate to football.”
Success at Stanford
After redshirting his first season with the Cardinal, the 6-foot-1-inch, 205-pound safety took what was then the Pac-10 by storm in 2003. He led Stanford in interceptions and ranked fifth on the team in tackles his second year, earning recognition from the conference (First Team Freshman) and NCAA (Third Team Freshman All-American).
“I had set a goal to be a starter my freshman year, and it worked out,” Hooper said.
Hindered by injuries his sophomore and junior seasons, Hooper finished strong at Stanford. As a senior, he was named team captain and received honorable-mention All Pac-10 honors after leading the Cardinal in sacks and finishing second in tackles.
Off the field, Hooper earned a degree in urban studies, with a focus on community organization.
That successful senior season left Hooper hopeful that he would be drafted by the NFL in 2007, but his name was never called. Hooper’s phone rang right after the draft ended, he recalled, with his agent telling him that the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills both offered him contracts. He chose the Bills.
“I was out there on a free-agent contract,” Hooper said. “There are 90 guys and they’re trying to whittle it down to 53 by September – and it’s May, and I know there’s going to be cuts, so I’m trying to make the roster.”
After seeing limited action in the preseason and suffering an injury, the Bills released Hooper and he returned to the Bay Area. Days later, the Bills asked him back.
“I get a phone call from Buffalo, during their own game, saying that they want me to fly back out because their starting safety broke his arm during the game,” Hooper said.
But two days after returning to Buffalo, Hooper was replaced by a recently released veteran safety. Hooper never suited up again.
“I spent a year and a half chasing it,” he said of his NFL dream, and I feel good reflecting back on it to say I gave it a try.”