Nov. 6, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Dustin Hopkins won't know before his gold cleat meets leather what awaits him on the other side of the cross bar. And he won't revel in the significance of what the kick -- should it be successful -- will mean in the world of college football and to Florida State University.
That comes later.
Hopkins, No. 6/8 FSU's kicking candidate for All-America honors and one of 20 Lou Groza Trophy semifinalists, enters the Seminoles' Thursday-night game at Virginia Tech with the chance of setting the new NCAA all-time scoring record among kickers.
"I will not know I break it until someone tells me after I kicked the ball," Hopkins said. "And I don't want to because I think that jeopardizes the team's success. That will be interesting. I don't know when it will be. Literally, it could be the next kick or 30 kicks from now. We'll see."
With 429 career points to his credit, the Houston, Texas native needs a minimum of five converted kicks to set the record (three field goals and two extra points) so he won't break former Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman's scoring mark of 439 under the lights of Lane Stadium right away -- or quite possibly not at all in Blacksburg, Va.
But that doesn't mean it can't be done in front of ESPN's national mid-week audience. Hopkins averages this season (11.4 points per game) what he needs to break the record Thursday night as he has hit 18 of 22 field goal attempts and 49 of 50 extra-point tries. Should he fail to break the record against Virginia Tech, Hopkins still has at least three games -- and possibly four, should the 'Noles earn a trip to the ACC championship game next month -- to etch his name in college football lore.
He's already FSU's and the ACC's all-time leader in points and field goals made and is just the ninth kicker in NCAA history to score at least 400 points in a career.
Hopkins may not want to pay much mind to what he has accomplished in his nearly four years in Tallahassee or what he is about to do but in a reflective moment admits that a lot of positive things have happened since he took over Graham Gano in 2009.
"I was looking at a journal -- I've written like two in my life -- after the Miami game my freshman year when I had missed an extra point and I had kind of had some extra-point trouble the first four games of my career," Hopkins said. "I wrote down, 'I don't want to be just another kicker. I want to be a kicker that sets records.' It's kind of funny looking back on that moment and writing that and to kind of see that come to fruition is amazing."
What else is amazing is that Hopkins isn't just a "one-kick" pony. He may finish his career as the greatest scoring kicker in NCAA history but he is also just as much of a weapon on kickoffs.
Hopkins has registered 34 touchbacks this year (seven away from tying his career high for a season) while not having any those kicks go out of bounds. He's averaging a career-low 63.1 yards per kickoff but it's by design. His high kicks coupled with FSU's speedy athletes on the prowl for special-teams tackles typically results in poor starting field positions for opposing offenses -- something that's made even more important considering how dominant the Florida State defense has been all season.
"What he does on kickoffs, field position, being able to kick that ball high enough, not let certain guys touch the ball, it's a tremendous weapon," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "His ability to have the range on the field goals and the consistency, it's a huge weapon, a vital part of recruiting.
"We're blessed to have him. I know that."
And Hopkins knows he is coming to the end of a blessed collegiate career; he's just not ready to think about it yet.
There's still too many kickoffs, field goals and extra points to kick with that golden foot of his. And too much still at stake for the ACC and BCS-bowl-contending Seminoles.
"I said before, it's going to be real humbling to look back on after the season is over and see God's work through a career," Hopkins said. "I would like to call [my career] successful and brought me to where I am right now but I am just focusing each week on the little things that I need to do to be successful and to help our team be successful."