The next step for Nuk
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The next step for Nuk

CLEMSON - As a two-sport star at Daniel High School, DeAndre Hopkins had plenty of options for the next level.

First, he had to choose the sport -- football or basketball.

Hopkins' first offer came from Wake Forest, to play hoops. The South Carolina and Florida hoops programs eventually came through.

Clemson, South Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan and Wisconsin had gridiron offers out to him.

Hopkins could have played either defensive back or wide receiver at the collegiate level. And, probably, could have played both at a high level.

Clemson wanted him to play on the offensive side of the ball.

"That was a decision that they had with the defensive staff and the offensive staff. They had a meeting and said which one they needed more here," Hopkins said on Wednesday. "I told coach [Dabo] Swinney I just wanted to get the ball. I told him if it was at wide receiver then it doesn't matter.

"I guess they felt like they needed more need at the wide receiver position than at the defensive back position at the time."

Hindsight is a perfect 20/20.

Hopkins caught 206 passes for 3,020 yards and 27 touchdowns during his Clemson career. He finished first in school history in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, 100-yard receiving games and second in receptions.

All of that led to Hopkins's decision to put his name into the hat that is the 2013 NFL Draft.

"I felt like I've accomplished all I want to accomplish, on and off the field," he said "From a maturity standpoint, I felt that I've grown. That's what I came to school to do, to grow as a person, not just as a football player."

The record-breaking junior season helped his decision.

"Statistically, I felt like I had a great season. There is a lot that goes into making a big decision like that. The momentum [from 2012] was one of them," Hopkins said. "I'm not going to say it was the main factor, but that was definitely one of them."

His work against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl pushed him out the door.

"At the beginning of this year, one of my goals was to play where I could set myself up to have that decision at the end of the year. I felt like that's not a bad scenario, to be able to leave or stay -- both ways," Hopkins said. "I felt like, after the bowl game, it was something that set up to kind of help it. It helped my decision to leave."

It wasn't easy.

"It was a decision that I felt was best for me and my family. Clemson has given me all of the opportunities to succeed in life, not just football," Hopkins said.