Just over four months ago, the Texans took DeAndre Hopkins in the first round of the NFL Draft. Head-turning performances during rookie minicamp, OTA's and training camp followed. The excitement about the rookie's capabilities spiked during the preseason win at Minnesota when he pulled in a 34-yard pass from T.J. Yates for a touchdown. A concussion the next week has kept Hopkins from game action, but he'll play Monday night. Just don't expect 'first-time' jitters to rattle him. Those came and went in May.
"I would say the first day of practice when I went against Johnathan Joseph," Hopkins said. "Your competition can't get any better than that, so you've kind of got to throw the rest of that stuff out the window and go out there and work."
Hopkins battled with Joseph, Kareem Jackson and the rest of the Texans cornerbacks throughout those practices, and more than held his own. He hasn't wavered, confidence-wise, during the jump from college to the NFL.
"That's never an issue," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's very competitive. I think the biggest issue for him right now is volume of NFL stuff and what we do. That is the next adjustment for him. That will come as we go through the season because it's just a natural shock to begin with."
Kubiak said Andre Johnson has been a big help during practices in getting Hopkins in the right alignment. But the offensive captain isn't just chirping up during practices with Hopkins.
"I'm talking to him all the time," Johnson said. "The one thing I'll just tell him is to go out and play as hard as you can, worry about the mistakes later and just leave it all out on the field. A lot of times good things happen just by giving effort. You can't think while you're playing. You have to go out and try to execute to the best of your abilities and move on from it."
Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison has been encouraged by the Clemson product's aptitude.
"I think he'll be fine," Dennison said. "I think he'll grasp it. He's grasped everything we've asked him to do thus far."
Coming back from the concussion, Hopkins said he's "doing good" and feels "better than ever". And he's excited about the spotlight that Monday night's clash with the Chargers brings.
"I feel like the pressure is on and that's when I step up and answer," Hopkins said. I feel like in college, it's a lot different. You can take games off. But in the NFL, no matter if you're playing the worst team in the conference, they can beat you easily because they're all pros. I don't feel like that's going to be the same as it was in college."
Quarterback Matt Schaub is enthused by the addition of Hopkins, and thinks Hopkins will produce in games the same things he's produced since May.
"I expect him to just go out and play the way he's been playing all preseason and offseason," Schaub said. "The game's not too big for him. He just gets in the huddle. He's a smart guy, just understanding our game plan. I'm expecting to go in and make plays."