Army counting on quarterback Kelvin Hopkins' big arm
By SAL INTERDONATO | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: August 29, 2018
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Kelvin Hopkins received a vote of confidence from coach Jeff Monken a week before Army's season opener at Duke.
A strong spring and preseason earned Hopkins the right to be Army's top quarterback. The decision wasn't a surprise. Hopkins was the understudy to three-year starting quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw last season. He came off the bench and sparked Army with his passing to a last-second, game-tying touchdown against Temple in one of the Black Knights' most thrilling victories in their 10-win season.
Now Hopkins will be making his first college start on Friday in Durham, N.C., two hours down I-85 from his Charlotte home.
The junior quarterback almost walked away from football in elementary school. His Charlotte Pop Warner team wasn't experiencing success, and he was thriving on the basketball court.
"When I was growing up, my first four years I didn't win a single football game," Hopkins said. "That was the hardest part, coming back every year to the same team with the same guys and losing every year. I was winning on the court and doing well. That was probably why I was so drawn to basketball because I hate losing."
When Hopkins wanted to quit football multiple times, his mother, Cynthia, stepped in. She had paid money for Hopkins to play and her son wasn't giving football up.
Hopkins' passion for the sport would grow. Hopkins led Independence High to a 12-1 record in 2014 and was named second-team all-state in North Carolina.
As the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Hopkins is tasked with the challenge of following Bradshaw, the all-time single-season rusher in service-academy history, he was asked who inspired him to play college football. The answer was easy.
"My mother," Hopkins said. "She's been my biggest fan. She took me to all my practices as a kid. She's traveled all over the place to see us (Army) play. Being able to play for my mom and represent her and be a good sport and a good leader, I display all of the things that she taught me."
Teammates have voted Hopkins onto Army's leadership council this season. Fullback and captain Darnell Woolfolk marvels at the time that Hopkins has expended learning Army's offense and, just as importantly, opposing defenses. Hopkins wants to win in everything from chess to NCAA '14.
Hopkins is prepared for this moment, just like he was ready when called on to play against Temple. Hopkins completed five passes, three for third-down conversions, in 91 seconds.
"Without Kelvin being a smart player and a competitive player, that drive would have never been possible," said junior running back Kell Walker, who had a 21-yard catch on the drive. "He's smart. He knew exactly where to put (the pass) at the right time. He knew where I would be. As soon as I got past that second-level defender, I looked and peeked and he threw it right in the window."
Army coaches aren't asking Hopkins to replace Bradshaw's 1,746 rushing yards in 2017. Hopkins' arm can take Army's offense to the next level. Monken said Hopkins "throws the ball as good as maybe any quarterback we've ever had in the offense." Army quarterbacks not named Kelvin Hopkins completed just 14 passes in 13 games last season.
Offensive coordinator Brent Davis said Hopkins has also showed physicality when running the football in the preseason.
"We wanted to see if he wanted to get the tough yards like Ahmad (Bradshaw) did so many times for us and keep the chains moving," Davis said. "We feel like he's done that. I think he's a physical guy, certainly Ahmad was very physical. He's different than Ahmad but we feel like he absolutely likes to run the football and he can do some other things really well as well."