Eyes of Texans on Hopkins

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

As soon as the Houston Texans' rookie minicamp began, all eyes were on receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the first-round draft choice from Clemson.
Hopkins (6-1, 214) is under a lot of pressure to learn fast enough and to produce quick enough to be starting opposite Andre Johnson when the Texans begin regular season at San Diego.
"It's not time to play yet, but he's looked good so far," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I'm very impressed. Number one, he's very competitive. He fights for the ball whenever it's in the air, wherever it is. He's got tremendous hands. His hands are big. But we knew we were getting all those things."
Hopkins, who caught 18 touchdown passes as a junior last season, is the only rookie the Texans need to start. Kevin Walter, who started opposite Johnson for the last six years, was placed on waivers for salary cap purposes.
Keshawn Martin and Lestar Jean, the primary competition for other starting job, have combined for fewer than 20 catches in their brief careers.
One reason the Texans liked Hopkins is because he's a fast learner and works hard, the better to be ready to start for the regular-season opener.
"We're asking a lot of him," Kubiak said. "We expect him to step in and help real quick. I love his competitive nature, just watching him compete in every drill."
Hopkins left the first practice on Friday with a cramp but returned for the afternoon session. He knew he was on display, and he wanted to make a good impression during the three-day minicamp that included five practices.
"I loved it," he said. "I wanted to show them I'm a player, that I can make plays. You can't get overwhelmed by being in the NFL. You just have to do what you do. Once you get in here and hang with these people, you know they're human just like you. You know you kind of fit in with them."
As it is for every rookie, the mental part is the most difficult. Learning the playbook and making adjustments on the field.
"I feel like if you study your playbook, and you try to be a student of the game, then it's kind of easier," Hopkins said. "When you have veterans, like those on this team helping you out, it makes things a lot easier.
"It felt great just to put on the helmet. I've been doing a bunch of talking. I felt like a president almost, being up on podiums and talking. It felt great coming out here and doing what I love."
--Outside linebacker Sam Montgomery, a third-round pick, is playing on the strong side. He couldn't wait to get on the field for his first practice.
"The motivation was already there," he said. "It definitely was something big that I've been looking forward to, a childhood dream. It's definitely one of the things I looked forward to. It's definitely something you've got to train and be prepared for."
Even though the veterans didn't compete, Montgomery had to get used to the speed of the NFL.
"It's definitely faster," he said. "Something I've got to get prepared for. But it's a great learning experience. The coaches were great. Everybody's motivating each other. I couldn't sleep. I was too anxious to be out here."

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