He found out that he won the Bills kicking job from the man with whom he was competing. Fourteen-year veteran Rian Lindell, shortly after being released, contacted Dustin Hopkins prior to Monday’s morning practice to congratulate the rookie on winning the job he had held with Buffalo for the past 10 seasons.
“Just to speak to his character the first guy that I heard from before I heard anything was Rian,” said Hopkins. “He just wished me luck, said he wanted the best for me and that he was happy for me. I think that’s just an accurate representation of the kind of guy he is. Just not bitter or anything like that, but genuinely happy for a guy that he’s known for only a few weeks.”
Hopkins, who from the time he was entering his sophomore year in high school spent parts of his summer vacations at kicking camps, finally saw all his hard work pay off. In the eyes of head coach Doug Marrone Hopkins made a step forward in his progress over the past week or so.
“In the past 10 days Dustin has performed better, so we made a decision to go with Dustin,” said Marrone. “You make those decisions and move on. A lot of times those decisions are tough. I know about those things. I was released six times myself. Rian is one of the top professionals I’ve been around.”
Having picked up small tips on how to make his game better by just observing Lindell since he joined the team as a sixth-round pick in May, Hopkins is thankful to have had him as a teammate in addition to a competitor.
“I find myself in a paradox because this is something I’ve worked my whole life for just to represent my faith, my family and my hometown,” Hopkins said. “It’s an honor and a blessing to be here, but at the same time this is kind of bad part of pro sports parting with a guy that I’ve got a lot of respect for and admired watching for a long time. A guy that’s treated me with a tremendous amount of respect given the situation that was put in front of us knowing one of us was probably going to be gone.”
With the competition over, Hopkins is squarely focused on improving his game every time he trots out for an attempt. Early in camp he was working on his follow through and his approach was a bit inconsistent at times, but he feels he’s ironed all the kinks out.
“I’ve felt a lot more comfortable here recently, just with the tempo and getting used to practices and games,” he said. “I feel like I’m hitting a clean ball. I’ve felt comfortable for sure.”
Perfect thus far in the preseason going 4-for-4 on attempts, Hopkins hasn’t really had an opportunity to put his powerful leg on display with his long just a 39-yard attempt. He’s not itching to attempt a long field goal, but he’ll be ready if one comes up over the final two preseason contests.
“I want to, if the opportunity arises, yes for sure,” he said. “I’m not focused so much on the distance as I am on needing to make every kick whether it’s a 55 (yarder) or an extra point. An old kicking saying is every kick is the same. So yes I’m looking forward to that, but I’m just trying to focus on making every kick regardless of the distance.”
We will miss u Rian, couldn't ask 4 a better friend or teammate.— GarrisonSanborn (@garrisonsanborn) August 19, 2013
Wanna take the time to thank Rian Lindell for being a great teammate and friend while he was here in buffalo. Wish ya the best of luck! #9— Fred Jackson (@Fred22Jackson) August 19, 2013