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Father Knows Best

Former Va. Tech QB Hopkins wants son to be more than athlete

_MG_2687Tennessee Future Stars quarterback Dylan Hopkins takes the shotgun snap during practice at Maryville High’s Shields Stadium on Wednesday. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Hopkins drops back to throw.

Hopkins drops back to throw during practice Wednesday.

It’s in the way he moves, the way he throws.

The way the ball spins is terrific, even on touch passes over the shoulder.

Dylan Hopkins is a rare find when it comes to a developing young quarterback. He gets it from his father.

More important to former Virginia Tech quarterback/linebacker Archie Hopkins is the son he raises.

Dylan, a rising Maryville High School freshman, will put his talents on display with the rest of the Tennessee Future Stars when they meet their Kentucky counterparts Saturday afternoon at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, KY.

The eighth-grade roster includes four of Hopkins’ former Maryville Junior High teammates – receiver Christian Markham, the 2013 Gracie’s/Blount Press Row Blount County Player of the Year, running back Isaiah Cobb, place-kicker Sean Snelgrove and offensive lineman Mason Gann.

Alcoa Middle’s Tornadoes are represented on the eighth-grade squad by running back/linebacker Ja’Lynn Sykes and linebacker Lucas McKeehan.

Christian Markham impressed Future Stars coach Joe Horn with the route running this week.

Christian Markham impressed Future Stars coach Joe Horn with the route running this week.

Maryville’s Kaleb Cardwell and Alcoa’s Landon Ray are the only Blount Countians to make Tennessee’s seventh-grade team.

The seventh-grade game kicks off at noon CST, with the eighth-graders following 30 minutes after the conclusion.

Former Tennessee Vol and Baltimore Raven Jamal Lewis is head coach of the eighth-grade team, with former New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn as one of his assistants.

Hopkins ran/threw for 20 touchdowns last fall in leading the junior high Rebels (10-0) to the Smoky Mountain Athletic Conference championship. Not since former Maryville High and current Vanderbilt quarterback Patton Robinette was an eighth-grader at Heritage Middle has a signal caller of such promise announced his arrival.

Hopkins has the advantage of a father that’s seen the game at its highest levels.

Isaiah Cobb takes it all in on Wednesday.

Isaiah Cobb takes it all in on Wednesday.

Archie Hopkins was one of football-mad Florida’s top high school prospects in the early 1980s. His junior season at Cypress Lake High School, he threw for better than 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was on an even hotter pace as a senior, with Georgia, LSU and West Virginia among several suitors.

Asked how much he knew about his father’s career, Dylan said: “I’ve heard some stories (from others). He doesn’t talk much about it.”

A broken ankle five games into his senior season changed everything for Archie. All the colleges who’d expressed interest vanished in a flash.

After rehab and a year at an Air Force Academy prep school, Archie was again a hot commodity, but, this time when the schools came calling, he’d had enough, opting instead for Ivy League heavyweight Brown.

After a season, he transferred to Virginia Tech, where he asked for and was granted a move to linebacker.

Mason Gann comes off the line during practice at Shields Stadium.

Mason Gann comes off the line during practice at Shields Stadium.

The fickle nature of college football recruiting is something he has never forgotten, Archie said. When Dylan began to show interest in football, Archie said he made doubly sure the game would not become his whole life.

Lucas McKeehan battles his way through the line.

Lucas McKeehan battles his way through the line.

It’s something former high school and college coach Jack Harbaugh expressed best, Archie said, when Harbaugh’s sons, John and Jim, were about to face off as opposing coaches in Super Bowl XLVII, John at the helm of the Baltimore Ravens, Jim the San Francisco 49ers.

“He (Jack Harbaugh) said, ‘When you talk about your kids, you really need to be talking about them as kids and not as athletes,’” Archie said. “I always think about that when it comes to keeping it all in check.”

Dylan has a remarkable skill set for someone so young, Future Stars quarterbacks coach Tony Colston said. A point of separation is Dylan’s willingness to take instruction.

“The first thing you look for when you’re doing something like this is are they coachable,” Colston said. “How are they at learning something they’ve never done before?

“He (Dylan) keeps a cool head, and he’s focused.”

There are no shortcuts, Archie said.

“I’ve always told him, ‘Listen to your coaches,’” he said. “‘You take what they teach you and you work on it on your own. Practice away from the field is going to be the key to your success.’

Ja'Lynn Sykes awaits his next rep.

Ja’Lynn Sykes awaits his next rep.

“I said, ‘If you want to be really good, you’re going to have to work really hard.”

It isn’t lip service, Maryville Junior High coach Jay Malone said.

“The fathers that were a good high school or college athlete, they know how it works,” he said. “They leave their kids alone. I can name athlete after athlete I’ve had through the years that had a father like Archie, and they stayed out of the way.”

The Tennessee/Kentucky Future Stars game has proven the springboard for many successful high school careers. Rising Maryville High senior and Tennessee commitment Dylan Jackson is among an ever-growing list of notable alumni. After the game, it’s his son he’ll meet on the field, not the Tennessee Future Stars quarterback, Archie said.

“I always tell him, ‘You’ll remember these days for the rest of your life,” he said.

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