Replacing a four-time All-American is not an easy feat, but hurdler J Hopkins has embraced that challengein his senior year running track for WSU.
Hopkins said he learned a lot from former WSU standout hurdler Jeshua Anderson, who has since become a professional sprinter and hurdler. Hopkins now looks to build on his fourth-place finish at last year’s Pac-10 Championships by utilizing the lessons and skills Anderson taught him.
“I don’t think anyone can ever replace someone that’s that talented,” Hopkins said.
However, Hopkins said he senses from coaches and teammates that he needs to step up and be “that guy who can continue to score points at the top level.”
The task of replacing a three-time Pac-10 champion, two-time NCAA champion and four-time All-American may seem daunting, but Hopkins said he finds solitude in his skills and the approach he learned from Anderson. That approach is to never settle despite natural talent.
“Just because you have all the God-given talent in the world, doesn’t mean you settle,” Hopkins said. “I feel like, as an athlete that is the best thing you can have to look up to because there are so many that do settle.”
Hopkins also noted the positive influence of WSU Assistant Coach Mark Macdonald, and how he is helpful in fostering a positive and encouraging energy. Macdonald said he believes Hopkins has a legitimate chance of running under 50 seconds and being an All-American this year.
“J is off to a great start this season,” Macdonald said. “He shows up to every practice and every competition with a focus to give it everything he has. That attitude is starting to pay off.”
The philosophy holds true for Hopkins on the track and off. Outside of athletics, Hopkins strives to learn as much as he can while in school. He also hopes to apply the knowledge he gains at WSU to future endeavors including starting a business, producing a documentary and making a change in the world.
“I’m a lover of knowledge,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins certainly is making the most of his time at WSU as he excells in the classroom as well as on the track. Earlier this month, Hopkins was selected to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation All-Academic team along with 13 other Cougar athletes.
Hopkins said he expects to graduate in December as he plans to go to Olympic trials this summer and continue to gain exposure for himself.
“It’s been a long four years. I can say I’ve learned a lot for sure,“ Hopkins said. “I feel like WSU has helped me to see what lies after athletics. I don’t think athletics is the only thing I want to pursue.”
One endeavor Hopkins hopes to take on is making a documentary on the structure of the NCAA and address the prospect of paying collegiate athletes. Hopkins said he doesn’t understand how NCAA executives make billions of dollars while student athletes make nothing.
“I think it would just be cool to shed some more light on an industry that is really confusing,” he said. “I feel like athletes don’t understand everything that happens from an NCAA perspective, and why”.
In the short term, Hopkins will continue toward his goal of becoming an All-American, and will continue to use Anderson and Macdonald as inspiration of what is possible.
“That continual confidence in me, without it being me having confidence in myself really helps me believe that striving to go pro is possible,” Hopkins said.