Dustin Hopkins won't be the most popular Florida State player visiting ''Death Valley'' this weekend. At least with Clemson fans.
The Seminoles' prized junior placekicker from Houston booted a career-best 55-yard game-winning field goal as time ran out in a 16-13 victory over the Tigers last year.
''When you have kickers, it's like having money in the bank,'' Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. ''You're not living paycheck to paycheck. You can go back to that reserve to keep you out of trouble or kick you into some points.''
Just like relief pitchers in baseball, placekickers are fallible and about as superstitious.
Hopkins paints the toe of his kicking shoes gold a day or two before each game and keeps the same pair of shoes through the season. He also picks out his pads each game based on how they look.
''Whichever one looks nicer, I'll put on my right leg,'' he said. ''If it has a crease down the middle, whatever, whatever crease I feel looks the sharpest.''
But he relies most heavily on his faith.
''I'm not defined by my football,'' Hopkins said. ''There's so much more to us individuals on the team that what we do on the field.''
Hopkins is remembered by his coaches and many Florida State fans for how he handled adversity.
''If you have a good game, awesome,'' Hopkins said Tuesday. ''Each week is kind of a clean slate for me, and I don't think about makes and misses.''
The week before his dramatic game-winning kick against Clemson, Hopkins had missed a 40-yard field goal as time ran out to allow North Carolina to escape with a 37-35 victory.
A week later, Hopkins got the chance to redeem himself in the final seconds, but from 15 yards further out than his missed kick against the Tar Heels. This time he nailed it.
''Most guys don't ever get a chance to kick one to win or lose,'' Fisher said. ''To be able to do it the very next week, it was tremendous.''
Hopkins' powerful right leg could again be decisive Saturday when the 11th-ranked Seminoles (2-1) meet No. 21 Clemson (3-0) in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.
Hopkins recalls his first visit his freshman season to Clemson favorably, although the Seminoles were defeated.
This time he expects to hear some catcalls from Tiger fans.
''I'm sure I'll get some business, but that goes with it,'' said Hopkins, who has kicked four field goals of 52 yards or longer for the Seminoles. ''I really block it out.''
The Texan kicker has been on a roll since last year's Clemson game. He's converted his last 13 field goals, including two that covered 55 and 46 yards in last week's 23-13 loss to top-ranked Oklahoma. He comes into ''Death Valley'' having converted his last 99 extra-point kicks.
Hopkins, who turns 21 next week, is also on a pace to break school and ACC records in scoring and field goals.
Three games into his junior season, Hopkins already has 47 field goals and tallied 247 points. Former Maryland star Nick Novak holds both ACC career marks with 80 field goals and 393 points, while Derek Schmidt has the Florida State records with 73 field goals and 393 career points. At his present pace, Hopkins would surpass both.
Former Georgia kicker Billy Bennett holds the NCAA career mark with 87 field goals.
Hopkins also ranks among the nation's leaders in driving kickoffs into or through the end zone, preventing opponents from returns. He ranked second in the nation last year with 41 kickoffs that resulted in touchbacks.
Fisher regards Hopkins and punter Shawn Powell as two of the 10 most valuable players on his team.
''I don't know if I've ever been on a football team like that in how they affect the game,'' Fisher said.
And it's likely it could be up to Hopkins one more time Saturday.
''The Lord's in control, whether I make it or not,'' Hopkins aid. ''I just want to be sure I go out there and hit a clean ball.''
Clemson not ready to forgive Hopkins
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