Those are all fine traits, but what many fail to realize is that all of those attributes usually don't translate exactly when they hit Division 1-A. They might be fast, but the players they are going against are faster, too. They might be elusive, but they will likely face players just as athletic as them.
When you find yourself in that little predicament or in some cases, harsh reality, sometimes it's better to take a more direct approach. "I love running between the tackles. I think that's my strength," said Stephen Hopkins, a 6-0, 210 lbs. running back out of Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas. "A lot of backs talk about the speed they have to the outside.
"Well, sometimes it's not that hard to look fast in high school. But when you get to college it's a different story. But running between the tackles, getting those yards after contact – that's as much mental as it is physical.
"You have to want it."
Hopkins totaled approximately 1,700 yards last season, which was preceded by only 11 yards shy of that same mark as a sophomore. He did it with a defensive player's mind-set on the offensive side of the ball. It's about contact, and as any running back worth their salt will tell you, it's about making sure that first contact doesn't get you down. "That's a really big thing with me, because I will do anything to avoid getting tackled by the first guy," he said. "If you are letting the first guy get you down, you aren't really helping the team, and you aren't proving that you can be as physical as you can athletic."
His style, production and upside have garnered him offers from five teams, according to Hopkins, Michigan, SMU, Texas A&M, Kansas and Stanford having told him they want him at their school. If you have that many offers, you know there are a host of other schools showing particular interest.
That's where Nebraska comes in, and a big reason why Hopkins took a trip to Lincoln to experience "Jr. Days." He wasn't disappointed. "Nebraska was the first team to show me a lot of interest, and it's just one of those places that has an awesome tradition," Hopkins said. "I loved everything about that place, from the facilities which were unbelievable, and I love their style, because they seem like just a hard-nosed-hard-working team.
"I obviously like that."
The offense is a little different from what Hopkins runs for his Marcus Marauders. More often than not you will see him lining up in a typical "I-Formation." Hopkins said that he's obviously more comfortable with that, but talking a bit about the slightly more wide-open offense they run at Nebraska he thinks he'd fit in just fine. "I like being able to do whatever I need to do to help the offense. I am used to the "I", but I like catching the ball out of the backfield and doing whatever they need me to do."
Nebraska wasn't his only Jr.-Day trip this year as Hopkins said that he's also been to the same kind of events at Texas A&M, SMU, Baylor and UCONN. There's no set schedule as to what he'll do during this off-season, whether that's a combine or a team camp.
Back to the Huskers, though, Hopkins said that he's definitely interested, but the lack of an offer right now makes them an intriguing school, but logically, it would be hard for them to crack his top five unless they go the way of The Cardinal, Wolverines, etc., in tendering an offer, too. "I don't have any favorites right now, but obviously the teams which have offered me, are going to be the teams I am looking at the most," he said.
But when it comes to his criteria, you can tell by where he's been already that location isn't a problem, nor is the weather. And not even his parents being alum of Kansas (his mother) and Kansas State (his dad), will have any bearing on where he goes to school. "It's a decision for me, because I am the one who will be there for my college career. It will come down to a lot of things," he said. "I want to double-major, taking Sports Management and the other maybe Business Finance. So, I have to see how these schools are with that, too."
Along with evaluating all the schools, Hopkins said that there is no timeframe whatsoever for his decision. Chances are he'll take his official visits during or after the season, and then he figures he'll have a much better idea of what to do. "I'm going to be looking at a lot of things. I am looking at the academics, and I am looking at the chance to play early," he said. "Also, there may be other schools which might get involved, and then I will have to learn about them. It's probably going to be a long process."
As for favorites, you already know the answer to that one, Hopkins stating that he has none. With the very limited amount of communication through this period of recruiting, Hopkins figures that he'll haver to wait a bit longer before he can really start developing relationships with all this potential coaches in his future. "Coaches can't call me, and there's only so much you can learn from the letters schools send out," he said. "I'll need to talk to the coaches, see how I relate to them and see if I can get a feel for them and what they are doing."
Hopkins reports a 3.1 GPA
Note: Hopkins has a grandfather who went to Nebraska, though, he didn't play for the team. "He went there a long time ago, and my mom was actually born in Nebraska," Hopkins said. "That doesn't affect my decision, but there are some connections there."