Hometown hero Hopkins surprises local team

Photo courtesy Rex Brown/The Journal

Current Houston Texans wide receiver and former Daniel High School and Clemson standout DeAndre Hopkins donated gear to a local youth football team on Monday in Central.

By Eric Sprott
Courtesy The Journal

CENTRAL — Standing just outside the gate at Bolick Field on Monday evening in Central, DeAndre Hopkins had trouble remembering any one particular touchdown grab or spectacular catch he made just a few hundred feet away.

For those who followed his career at Daniel High School or Clemson, there are plenty of outstanding individual moments that stand out, and he’s continuing to add to that list as one of the NFL’s top young receivers with the Houston Texans.

But playing on the recreation field just past the heart of downtown Central as a flourishing young athlete, what stands out the most is something he can’t even remember fully — briefly being knocked out cold.

“That’s my funniest (memory),” Hopkins said with a laugh. “I thought I had a concussion.”

The injury was nowhere near that severe, and on the play, Hopkins slid out of bounds, and he happened to come to a stop at his mother’s feet.

Taken back by the moment, Hopkins’ natural inclination was to stay down, though his mother wasn’t wanting him to milk the moment too much, simply telling him to “get back up.”

“I’d never been hit that hard, and I kind of wanted to stay down, but I was like, ‘Dern, I guess I’ve got to get back up,’” Hopkins said with a laugh.

Though that moment stands out to Hopkins for its comedic value, he made countless memories at Bolick Field — and plenty of other fields all around the area, too — as he went down a path that has since led to him becoming the Texans’ number-one receiver.

Through his rise to stardom, Hopkins has never forgotten where he came from and how fortunate he’s been in life, and during a stop at home Monday, he did his part in giving back to his community.

On the eve of the 12-U Central Hurricanes flag football team’s season, Hopkins surprised the team with gift bags that included cleats, gloves, socks and team shirts, and he hung around until every last autograph and picture request was fulfilled, as he was happy to be home and brighten the kids’ day.

It was Hopkins’ second charitable effort in the Central area in recent months, as he also helped sponsor a book bag giveaway with his mother, Sabrina Greenlee, and her non-profit organization, SMOOOTH.

“It’s one of the most important things to me, especially coming from a small community like this and not a big city,” he said. “Not a lot of people make it out of here sports-wise, so just coming back and giving (back) to kids that are trying to do something like football or basketball, to me, is the most positive thing anybody in my position can do.

“It gives them a little motivation and shows them if I can do it, they can, too.”

Vare Hamilton, a cousin of Hopkins, coaches the Hurricanes, and said he simply reached out to Hopkins for a bit of help in trying to do something special for the team.

Hopkins, who said if anyone reaches out to him he’s “more than welcome to help them out,” was happy to oblige, and Hamilton said seeing his players’ faces made for a special moment.

“It’s just a joy,” said Hamilton, who starred at running back for Daniel from 1997-2000. “Back in the day, we didn’t have anything like this, so it’s great to make these kids’ day. Maybe they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.

“It’s just all about trying to give back to these kids playing football. It’s something positive for them.”

Comparing and contrasting life in Houston and Central, Hopkins said there wasn’t much of a comparison, as he tends to stay to himself in the big city and does his best to make home-cooked meals and avoid the temptation to eat out as he transitions to the Texans’ top receiver spot following the recent departure of Andre Johnson — arguably the most celebrated player in franchise history.

His work ethic and introverted nature are a testament to Hopkins’ small-town upbringing, which is something he’d never change.

“These people here, they teach you a lot,” he said. “They instill a lot in you about just staying humble and never forgetting where you come from. I’m always talking to my family here and flying them out there for games.

“The main thing I’d say is they just teach me to stay humble no matter what position you’re in, because it can easily be taken away.”