Three record-breaking seasons at Clemson, the NFL combine and Pro Day down – now comes the wait for DeAndre Hopkins.
He hopes it isn’t long, stopping April 25 just after 8 p.m. in New York City’s Radio City Music Hall when the first round picks are announced, and some of the latest projections have him going right there.
The process getting there hasn’t been easy though, with just a couple days’ rest since the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU.
"It’s been hectic," Hopkins said. "I thought it was going to be kind of a chill situation, but I’ve been working out just as much as these guys here (at Clemson)…it’s been very mentally challenging."
Hopkins was determined, competitive
By all accounts, he impressed at the NFL combine, making circus-catch after circus-catch in position drills, and improved his 40-time on campus last week at Pro Day to 4.55 seconds.
Consensus isn’t always easy to find with the wide variety of NFL draft experts out there now, but if Hopkins is to go in the first round – pick No. 23 or No. 25 to the Minnesota Vikings or No. 27 to the Houston Texans are the likely landing spots.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has the Daniel product Houston-bound in his latest mock draft, while NFL.com’s Gil Brandt and Dane Brugler have Hopkins headed to Minnesota, which makes even more sense now with the Vikings agreeing to trade top receiver Percy Harvin this week to the Seattle Seahawks.
His improved stock, after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board, only makes him more sure of his decision to jump early as a junior.
"Coming out of high school, I wasn’t always the five-star person everybody had high," said Hopkins, who leaves Clemson with the school marks in career receiving yards and touchdowns among more. "Setting myself up the way I have, I feel like I’ve overachieved."
That said, he isn’t operating with a chip on his shoulder – just ready to show his talents on the next level.
"It’s not going out there proving people wrong if I go first round or not," Hopkins said. "That’s just money. I feel like it’s a personal challenge."
The decision to go pro wasn’t easy either, with so many key players coming back for the 2013 season, aiming for a national-title run.
"We were definitely on the verge of something great," Hopkins said. "I feel like we can win a national championship with the guys we have here. I feel like I’ve done all I could do here."
The competition in his time on campus with players like rising junior receiver Sammy Watkins, who he calls his "little brother," made him the player he is.
"Coming here, I felt like I wanted to be the best wide receiver," Hopkins said. "Sammy felt the same way and that’s the key part of our success to the season. It’s going at it every day trying to be the best."
Hopkins expects big things from Watkins, Tigers
Hopkins said his best memory on the field as a Tiger came in the finale, the 4th-and-16 catch to preserve the game-winning drive against LSU.
And that kind of play, scooping a deep throw on the run on a dive, is what he wants NFL GMs to remember him by.
"That play says a lot," said Hopkins. "It was fourth-quarter. We’re a fast-paced offense. It takes endurance to go out there and still give it your all in the fourth quarter.
"We were the underdogs so I feel like an NFL team is watching that game – it should say a lot about who I am as a person."
Monday, Hopkins got a one-on-one workout locally with the Carolina Panthers – the first of what he expects to be many more between now and late April.
And that will lead to a first-round selection, he says, "without a doubt."