On Sunday DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans will join other first-year National Football League players at the annual NFL Rookie Symposium in Aurora, Ohio.
For four days the 2013 draft class will listen to men such as Hall of Famer Jim Brown talk about the “character and leadership and social and professional responsibility” the league wants and expects from its athletes.
The former Clemson standout is already ahead of the curve.
Hopkins, the first wide receiver drafted by the Texans in the first round since Andre Johnson got the call in 2003, has earned rave reviews from his coaches and teammates since arriving in Texas.
Head coach Gary Kubiak — as well as offensive coordinator Rick Dennison — have already praised Hopkins’ professionalism and maturity, and workouts during Organized Team Activities and minicamp have showcased a steely focus from the young man they call “Nuk.”
“You’ve got to have high confidence to play in this league,” Hopkins said after the first day of OTAs. “You can’t have low confidence at all if you want to play in the NFL. Everything sticks out to me; the urgency of guys and the competitiveness that everybody has and the goal and the want-to and will. Everybody wants to be successful and they want success for this team.”
The 6-1, 214-pounder who starred at D.W. Daniel High School before becoming one of the most decorated Tigers in history has always let his actions speak louder than words.
Nothing has changed now that the 21-year old is earning a paycheck.
“I’ve been impressed,” Kubiak said. “He struggled early, which we knew he would, but I think it helps when you throw a guy in with the (starters) right away, because he gets coached by (quarterback Matt Schaub).
“He’s obviously very gifted. We’ve just got to make sure we’ve got him doing what he does best.”
What he does best is catch the football and run with it.
As a Clemson freshman he led the receiving corps with 52 catches for 637 yards and four TDs.
As a sophomore his stats improved to 72 receptions, 978 yards and five TDs.
Last season he was one of the top wideouts in the country, snagging 82 balls for 1,405 yards and 18 scores in helping Dabo Swinney’s team finish 11-2.
Hopkins’ final game wearing Solid Orange was a memorable one, indeed, as the junior had 13 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson’s 25-24 victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
That performance — as well as his body of work — convinced him he was ready for the next level.
The Texans agreed, making him the 27th overall pick in the first round.
When he was introduced in Houston in April, he made his intentions known at the outset.
“I bring a championship mentality,” Hopkins said. “Whenever the ball is in the air I feel like it’s mine no matter where it is or who’s around me. I feel like I’m a physical wide receiver and I bring an edge to the Texans.”
Dennison is in complete agreement.
Johnson had 112 catches for 1,598 receiving yards in 2012 while Schaub threw for 4,008 yards. Hopkins adds even more firepower.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Dennison said. “With his skill set, we do what we do. We’ve got a guy that competes and competes for the ball and does what we do. He’s very physical, which is what we demand of our wide receivers.
“It’s not a matter of developing anything new. Just get him in here and let him compete and go from there.”
Watching the ease in which Hopkins runs patterns and reels in the cargo makes one forget he was a record-setting defensive back in high school and switched to offense to fill a need at Clemson.
“In high school, I had the state record for interceptions in a season and career,” said Hopkins, who had 28 picks and five defensive scores as a Lion. “They kind of knew when the ball was in the air, I was going to try and get it.”
Hopkins’ next opportunity to demonstrate his skill set will come when training camp opens next month.
And his goals will be the same goals he laid out right after his name was called in the draft.
“I’m just going to come in and compete for a spot and be the best wide receiver I can be,” he said. “I feel like if I come in and try to beat whoever is in front of me it will make the whole team better.”