Another Florida State Seminole has been accepted into the Buffalo Bills graduate school of special teams. In the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Bills selected Florida State kicker
“Hopkins we thought was the best kicker around," said Bills GM Buddy Nix. "Again coach has said that he wants a competition at every position and we think that makes you better and so we brought this guy in. He’s a good kickoff guy and he’s an excellent field goal kicker and we’ll let them compete.”
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“I’m very excited,” Hopkins said of joining so many familiar faces in the NFL. “I was blessed enough to have Shawn (Powell) hold for me for three years and I’m aware of how talented he is, not only in punting but holding so I’m excited in that aspect. And obviously to have EJ (Manuel), he’s a great friend of mine. We have so many guys up there. Shoot, it’s going to be like, not a college locker room all over again, but it’s going to be good to see friends.”
Hopkins believes his past bond with Powell should be advantageous as he enters a competition with veteran kicker
“Just having somebody who knows not only your work ethic, but your practice schedule, the way you like the ball held and also just off the field having friends and developing that community kind of outside of the locker room as well is going to help tremendously,” said Hopkins.
Hopkins has a notoriously big leg. The Houston, Texas native connected on 25 of 30 field goals in 2012, including five of six from over 50 yards.
His biggest kick came as a sophomore in 2012, when he drilled a 55-yarder as time expired for a 16-13 win over Clemson. That kick is the longest walk-off winner in ACC history.
The kick is even more impressive given what took place just one week earlier.
“I would say my sophomore year vs. Clemson was a memorable kick, especially given the circumstances. I had missed a game-winner the week before,” said Hopkins. “To be able to come through for your team a week after a rough week, it was truly rewarding.”
In four years, Hopkins kicked 137 of 348 kickoffs for touchbacks, averaging 65.10 yards per kickoff, and made 88 of 112 field goal attempts.
As everyone knows, a big leg is important for a kicker in Buffalo. Hopkins understands the challenges of the infamous Western New York weather, but is confident he can adjust.
“Definitely going to be a change,” said Hopkins. “I’ve kicked in some cold weather before in some of our games when we’ve traveled but never at home. It’s going to take adjusting to it, but at the same time I think when you know how to kick, and you grow up doing it your whole life, you make a couple adjustments and you go with the flow. You don’t worry about things you can’t control like wind or the cold or whatever it may be. I’m confident in what I can do.”
If Bills fans are surprised by the pick, Hopkins might be even more surprised.
“I had spoken with them at the Combine but other than that I haven’t talked to them over the phone, [and] they didn’t work me out,” explained Hopkins. “I was actually really surprised because you have your teams lining up that you think are really interested. You kind of watch them go by as the draft is going and to have the phone call come it was pretty surprising actually for it to be Buffalo, an exciting one nonetheless.
When Hopkins arrives in Buffalo he will look at least carve a niche for himself as the Bills kickoff specialist, and give current kicker Rian Lindell a run for his money.