E. L. Crossley student Jon Hooker. BERNIE PUCHALSKI

Jon Hooker is overjoyed to be back in school and on the football field.

The 12B student has returned to E.L. Crossley for the academic component of high school and he will suit up for the Centennial Cougars football squad. Because Crossley doesn’t have a football team, he is allowed to play for the closest high school.

“I came back because I didn’t do so well last year. I am not very good at doing online school,” the 18-year-old Welland resident said. “It really wasn’t good for me and I had to come back to earn my credits. Obviously I love playing football and I wanted to come back for football as well.”

Online schooling didn’t work for Hooker.

“I have ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] and not being able to work one-on-one with the teacher in person was very difficult for me. It was hard for me to wrap my head around all the assignments being thrown online and not being able to ask my teachers questions whenever I need them,” he said. “It was a very difficult time for me and being locked up in the house and not being able to go anywhere or see my friends was very stressful.”

His family played a key role in getting him through the tough times.

“I’m happy to be out here now but I am very lucky that I have lots of siblings — I have three brothers and a sister — and I did get to see people at home but it was still very tough for all of us.”

He longed for his time on the field.

“Missing football was really big and stressful because I thought I wouldn’t get to play football again in high school,” he said. “I played football in Grade 9 and 10 and in Grade 11 I got a bad concussion and I was out for the whole season. I wanted to come back to play in Grade 12 and then Covid happened.”

He loves the sport.

“It’s a good release. We all like to come out here, work together as a team and we are a big family out here.”

Hooker did find a way to stay fit over the past year and a half.

“I started a Snapchat story with all my friends called Fitness Only and we would work out from home and post videos of it.”

He was thrilled when he heard that high school football was back.

“I was excited. We knew there was going to be football right off the bat and we did some training in the summer to get really prepared for this. It is great to be back.”

Hooker and fellow seniors Noble Arterberry, Robbie Pereira, and Ethan Robertson ran a mini camp for the players three days before school started and as many as 16 players turned out each day.

He can’t wait for the season to start.

“I am looking forward to that first game and the pep rally if we have a pep rally.”

After this year, Hooker plans to study building codes and drawing at Niagara College.

“I want to draw up blueprints some day.”