Hopkins Doesn't Find Any Coal

South Bend wasn't what prized kicking recruit Dustin Hopkins expected.

Sounds like that's a good thing.

The kicker from Houston, Texas visited Notre Dame for the first time on Monday. Dustin Hopkins, his parents and his sister, arrived on campus around 11 a.m., and stayed until 10 p.m.

"I was kind of expecting a coal-miner town to be honest with you," the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Hopkins said. "It was a pleasant surprise as far as the town goes. As far as the school goes, some of the nicer facilities I've ever seen. The Gug was really nice."

Hopkins, who sports scholarship offers from Florida State, Baylor, Kansas State and Missouri, as well as Notre Dame, saw pretty much everything the Irish campus had to offer.

He did not verbally commit to Notre Dame, and likely won't when he has breakfast with a few of the coaches on Tuesday morning before leaving.

"It could happen," Hopkins said with a laugh. "I have a lot to think about. I'm really, I have a hard decision on my hands, just as far as my decision making goes.

"I think I can be happy at a lot of places. It's about picking out what's right, and what's important for me."

Hopkins is certainly a high-priority for the Irish staff, as coaches came in on their day off to entertain him and his family.

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. On several occasions, Hopkins has put his kickoff through the uprights, and he has made a 75-yard field goal with a one-inch tee, and recently connected from 65 yards out without one. Hopkins career long in a game is 48 yards, and the Clear Lake High standout is arguably the best prep kicker in the country.

Hopkins saw everything from the Gug, to Notre Dame Stadium, to the academic buildings to the lakes and Grotto. He watched a video presentation, met with some academic advisors, and sat and talked with coaches.

"I got to slap the Play Like A Champion Today sign," Hopkins said of the coolest part of the trip. "I guess that'd be it and sitting in the middle of the field."

He also got some extensive one-on-one time with Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis.

"He's one of the sharpest people I've ever met," Hopkins said. "He definitely, he knows what he is getting into. He does research on everything. I mean, you can't pull a fast one on him. He knows what's going on. He seems like a guy that might have a tough outside, but he is a good guy.

"As far as wanting me, he just said what do you have questions about? What concerns do you have about the university? Every question I had a concern with, I asked him, and he didn't need time to think about it, and shot back quickly and with more of why Notre Dame was the place to be."

Hopkins and his family flew into Chicago over the weekend. They got a chance to check out Northwestern, another program recruiting him.

"We drove through," Hopkins said. He has also visited Florida State and Baylor before. "We saw the campus and the stadium. There was a few graduations going on. It was a beautiful campus. The stadium looked like it had a little history with the towers there. It's a great academic school."

Hopkins family was equally impressed with Notre Dame. His sister was disappointed that the school doesn't offer a nursing program, so she won't be able to attend.

As far as Hopkins choosing to be a student/athlete at Notre Dame, he answered that he could possibly see himself in an Irish jersey.

"Of course," Hopkins stated. "I was really impressed. As a 17-year old young man, almost everyone would want to play at Notre Dame. If they qualify academically or athletically, that's another story, but I feel everyone would want to play here."

And with South Bend not being a coal-mining town, Hopkins may eventually decide to play at Notre Dame.

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