By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Since he was nine years old, DeAndre Hopkins has followed in the same footsteps as Jarvis Jenkins – and that’s a good thing.
Like Jenkins, Hopkins excelled in football and basketball at nearby Daniel High School in Central. Like Jenkins, he became a two-sport star in both for the Lions, and like Jenkins, he became both the Area and Region Player of the Year, as well as an All-State selection.
Also like Jenkins, Hopkins decided he wanted to stay at home and play college football, and like Jenkins, will run down the Hill on Saturday as a Clemson Tiger when Clemson hosts North Texas to open the 2010 season.
“If I wasn’t playing football, Jarvis and I would still be close,” Hopkins said. “We are like brothers. We were raised in the same neighborhood, even played on the same teams. I have always followed in his footsteps. Our families are friends. My dad and his dad were good friends.
“We’re pretty much brothers.”
Where the two aren’t alike, however, is in what they do. Jenkins is a 6-4, 310-pound senior defensive tackle that is projected to be a first-team All-ACC caliber player, while Hopkins, a.k.a Nuke, is a 6-2, 195-pound freshman wide receiver that is expected to play this Saturday and for many more to come.
Jenkins is excited to being playing with Hopkins again, even though they will not be on the field together. He made sure that opportunity presented itself when he educated his good friend on what he needs to do in order to get in the good graces of the Clemson coaches.
“Some of those freshmen don’t really know the ropes, but I kind of schooled him before he got here, so he’s ahead of most freshmen,” the senior said. “I’m not saying ability-wise, but being prepared-wise because I kind of showed him what to expect.”
Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney says he has noticed Jenkins’ affection for his so-called little brother.
“Jarvis is a guy that has kind of paved the way,” Swinney said. “He wasn’t a guy that was in great shape academically when he came in here. He wasn’t great physically coming in here, and everybody has seen the results. He has done well academically. He has flourished at Clemson. His body doesn’t even look like the same human when he came in here as a freshman.
“That’s a credit to the whole program, but it’s more so for Jarvis. He has been a great role model for Nuke. Nuke is the guy everybody in this area knows about. They know what a great player he has been and what a great competitor he has been in everything he has done over there at Daniel. But, at the same time, he needs a little bit of guidance, and I think Jarvis has taken pride in being that guy for him.”
And Daniel High School has taken pride in both of them. With Jenkins and Hopkins on the roster together, it gives Clemson two scholarship players out of Daniel for the first time since 1999. That year, running back Javis Austin – Hopkins’ cousin – teamed up with offensive lineman Kyle Young, who is now an assistant athletic director at Clemson.
“We have a good high school program,” Hopkins said. “Randy Robinson keeps producing good players. We kind of opened the gate for some of those younger guys that are there now, and it’s great to see them go down that same path.”
Clemson also had a Daniel connection in 2008 when walk-on Brian Hill teamed up with Jenkins.
“The community loves seeing the hometown guys producing,” Jenkins said. “Clemson, since Javis Austin, hasn’t really had a pipeline of recruiting in its backyard and I think we have opened that up for them.”
Swinney says you can see how proud the school and the town are of their two local heroes.
“These are two local guys that take a lot of pride in what they do, and Daniel is a school over there that takes a lot of pride in developing their players,” he said. “They are really proud of them.”
And they’re both proud to be playing together for the first time since they were teammates on the basketball court at Daniel High School in 2006.
“It was fun to play basketball with (Jarvis) that one year,” Hopkins said. “I would just get the ball down low to him. For a big man, he has amazing footwork and too many people couldn’t guard him. He didn’t take basketball as serious as I did. He was out there just trying to get in shape.
“It was fun playing with him. We had a connection on the court.”
And now that connection is on the football field.