Hopkins Impresses Notre Dame Coaches

Dustin Hopkins didn't know it at the time, but the 48-yard field goal he drilled in a freshman game was a taste of his destiny.

Besides handling all the kicking duties for the freshman team at Clear Lake High in Houston, Texas, Dustin Hopkins also played quarterback and free safety. He was just a little guy, standing in at 5-foot-6, 115 pounds, but like most boys in the Lone Star State, he loved playing football.

Kicking is never anyone's initial dream, but now it appears it will pay for Hopkins college education.

"My sophomore year (Hopkins first on varsity), I was a solid kicker but I wasn't extraordinary," he explained. "I was as good as the next guy. I think I got All-District. I grew a couple inches and put a few pounds on, and I worked hard that summer doing drills and going to camps and lifting. I think I kind of evolved into a kicker that could potentially get some looks and turn some heads. Hopefully I can make a career out of it, but get an education out of it."

Florida State and Baylor have already offered scholarships, and guaranteed the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Hopkins of that education. Besides those two programs, Hopkins listed Northwestern, Stanford, Kansas State, LSU and Notre Dame as schools showing the most interest.

The Irish coaching staff first contacted Hopkins four weeks ago, and recently came by the school to watch him workout.

"I called them back and I talked to coach (Mike) Haywood and coach (Brian) Polian about their need for a kicker and their program in general. About a week or two after that, they came down to my school and during a workout they saw me a kick."

Haywood and Polian were very impressed.

"Afterwards, they said that they're going around the country and looking at kickers for the next couple weeks, and they'd have a hard time trying to find a kicker better than me."

Professional kicking instructor Chris Sailer agrees. Sailer has sent many kickers, punters and long snappers to the NFL, and he has Hopkins ranked as the top kicker in the 2009 recruiting class.

Named class 5-A first team all-state this past season, Hopkins connected on 6-of-7 field goals. Two came from 43 yards out. He also made all 37 extra point attempts, and averaged 73 yards per boot on kickoffs.

Hopkins has made a 75-yard field goal with a one-inch tee, and on Monday, connected from 65 yards out without one.

While kicking is Hopkins strong suit, his punting is a long ways away from where he wants it to be.

"I think my average was 34 yards," Hopkins said. "It's part of my game I've been working on hard, because it's by far my weakest point. I've kind of been focusing on that in the off-season, that and kicking, but getting that up to where it needs to be."

Hopkins, who because of honors classes has a 4.25 GPA, has visited Baylor on several occasions. His older sister attends school there.

"I'm not sure if my sister going there is a plus or a negative," Hopkins laughed. "I love her. Baylor, I've been to a lot of their games, so I guess I have history with them, but I'm not sure if that commits me to them more than any other program in the country."

Hopkins also got a chance to check out Florida State.

"I expected it to be a little flatter on the coast," Hopkins said. "In Houston, we're really flat. They had some rolling hills. It kind of came off as southern Georgia as far as the landscape goes, and their stadium looked like a castle which was aesthetically pleasing. I think they said it was the biggest brick structure in the country. I met some of the coaches and they were very friendly."

Hopkins' travels has also taken him to see the campuses at Houston, Alabama, Stanford and LSU. When will he take the time to see Notre Dame for the first time?

"I'm not sure," Hopkins said. "This summer, I'm going to go to some camps. I guess it depends how serious Notre Dame and I are talking.

"My mom is excited because it is one of the top academic schools in the country. My Dad is excited about the academics too, but because it's Notre Dame football and everyone recognizes how strong the program is."

Hopkins knows a thing or two about Notre Dame as well.

"I know about Touchdown Jesus, and then I just know Notre Dame has been historically unprecedented as far as football programs go. They've just dominated. They have movies about them. They are on a pedestal type thing around the country."

Hopkins would like to make a college decision before his senior season, so he can focus on helping the team make the playoffs, become a better player, and just key in on his final year of high school altogether.

"Hopefully God directs me down a path where I can serve him and help my team," Hopkins said of what he is looking for in a school. "Somewhere I feel I can be the best person I can be as far as a football player, academics and morals I guess."

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories