Lago Vista (Texas) lineman Donald Hopkins knows a thing or two about escaping hardship. At the age of ten, Hopkins' father was murdered. By the time he was twelve, he left his home forever. A California (Oakland) native who was transplanted to Texas in 7th grade, he left his mom and family behind to have an opportunity for a better life.
Hopkins' father was shot by two men at a New Year's Eve party when he was ten. Upon hearing the news, he ran away from home and escaped into the woods for almost two days, thinking and contemplating what his life would be like after losing his father.
Adjusting to the harsh realities of being fatherless, Hopkins could have easily gone down the road of gangs and drugs on the tough streets of Oakland. Having a mother willing to make the ultimate sacrifice however made the difference for the young talented Hopkins.
"I was never a kid to get in a gang," relates Hopkins. "My mom always wanted me to go somewhere else and see something new."
I moved down here and then my grandma couldn't take care of me, and I have a friend that I met here in seventh grade that I moved in with, and they adopted me."
Fast-forward to 2011 and the Texas senior to be is sitting on a mountain of scholarship offers, and facing a life-altering decision. The newest offer coming in from Utah last week on the surface may seem like just another in a pile of schools vying for his services. But to Hopkins, the attention to detail shown by coach Morgan Scalley made an immediate impression.
"I'm looking for the best education I can get, and play football," said Hopkins. "The first thing I look at when I talk to a coach is the graduating rate."
Understanding the NCAA Clearinghouse, including the core credits required for eligibility, GPA rates, and qualifying test scores can be daunting for any prospective college athlete. Sadly, most college coaches these days don't take the time to go through a full academic evaluation on a prospect before making a scholarship offer.
"The only school that has done that with me is Utah," admitted Hopkins. "That's why they have the lead on every one else. Coach Scalley asked me how my grades are, and last night we talked about it again. That's who I want to go to school for - I want to have an education and then play football."
Right now Utah is on the map for me - I want to go visit Utah so bad. The coaches told me that it's like a really pretty place. I told the coach yesterday I'm going to walk to Utah. I want to visit a lot of places obviously, but Utah I really want to see."
Hopkins keeps telling everyone "before my senior year starts" for when he plans on making a commitment. "I want to be able to focus on my senior year. I don't want to stress - so I just want to end it all before my first football game."
The chance to play college football, but more importantly for Hopkins, get a good education will make the hardship and struggles seem like a distant memory for the fast rising prospect.