When Independence quarterback Kelvin Hopkins was growing up, he was a Butler High football fan.Hopkins, who has grown up in Mint Hill, remembers going to almost every Bulldogs game. He didn’t know it then, but he was cheering for his future rival – and against his future team.“At one point in time, I really didn’t like Independence, because I wondered if Butler would ever beat them,” Hopkins said. “Then, when I found out I was going to Independence, I thought, ‘I’m going to have to get used to this.’ But ever since I got here, I’ve been a die-hard Patriot. Now I bleed the green and gold.”After establishing himself as a playmaker on the Independence junior varsity team in his freshman and most of his sophomore year, Hopkins, a junior, moved to varsity late in his sophomore year, starting the final two games of the season when then-starter Jason Connella suffered a shoulder injury.Hopkins’ first extensive play came against Butler. He played the majority of the final three quarters in a 33-14 loss to the No. 1 and eventual state-champion Bulldogs, passing for 227 yards and a touchdown.He made his first start in the Patriots’ 45-42 first-round playoff victory against Northwest Guilford, passing for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Independence lost a week later, 55-26 to Butler, but the young quarterback gained valuable experience and confidence.“Those last two games were big for me, because I saw what it was like to play on the varsity level against some of the best teams in the state,” Hopkins said.The 16-year-old also worked hard in the offseason. He now can bench 250 pounds. He also studied film and has shown dramatic improvement, according to first-year coach Joe Evans.“I’ve always admired Kelvin’s work ethic,” Evans said.Evans first met Hopkins as a sixth-grader at Northeast Middle School, where Evans taught.“He has really grown over the last few years, and he has become a student of the game,” Evans said. “He loves to watch film and break down what he is doing right and what he is doing wrong. That has definitely made him a better player.”Hopkins went 20-for-24 for 376 yards passing and four touchdowns in the season opener, a 49-0 win against South Mecklenburg. In the next game, Hopkins (5-foot-10, 187 pounds) showed his versatility as he passed for 191 yards and a touchdown and ran for 95 yards and a score in a 42-0 shutout of North Mecklenburg.Independence was 4-2 going into a game against Porter Ridge on Oct. 4. The Patriots lost back-to-back games against West Mecklenburg (40-33) and Hough (28-27) prior to a 69-0 thrashing of East Mecklenburg.“I feel like I have played well at times in every game,” said Hopkins, who also boasts a 4.3 GPA. “But at Independence, ultimately it comes down to wins and losses. The only stat that really matters is getting a win.”Hopkins has had help in the quest for wins, starting with senior tailback Isaiah Robinson, who has committed to Wake Forest.The Patriots also boast a wealth of talent in their wide-receiver corps, led by Workpeh Kofa (UNC Charlotte commit) and including Jamiek Davis, Jamar Jenkins and Will Walton.“I have great weapons all over the field, and that makes my job a lot easier,” Hopkins said.He also has solid protection from his offensive line: center Tony Adams (N.C. State), right guard Greg Tanelus, right tackle Paulus Bonar, left guard Calvin Cunningham and left tackle Chris Wade (Furman commit).Hopkins, Robinson, the offensive line and the tight ends and other running backs regularly eat dinner together the night before a game.“My O-line is very important to me,” Hopkins said. “I know they’ve always got my back and I’ve got theirs.”Hopkins said he hopes the tight-knit team can help the Patriots get back to a championship-level play.“We want to win a state championship, and we believe we will,” he said. “If you’re playing high school football and you don’t want that, then you aren’t playing for the right reasons.”
Friday, Oct. 04, 2013
Kelvin Hopkins hopes to make his own name as Independence quarterback
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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