BOGACZYK: Soccer’s Hopkins Wins C-USA Postgrad Honor
Friday, June 17, 2016
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Seven months ago, Marshall finished the 2015 men’s soccer season as the Conference USA Tournament runner-up, and three-year starter Jack Hopkins was a repeat selection to the C-USA All-Academic Team.
“There were plenty of great moments in my four years,” Hopkins said.
It turns out there was one more.
Hopkins, a midfielder/defender from Birmingham, Ala., was selected by C-USA member school Faculty Representatives for Athletics as Marshall’s winner of the annual Jim Castaneda Postgraduate Scholarship presented by the league. The $4,000 grant goes to one student-athlete at each of the 14 C-USA schools.
“I was pleasantly surprised to win this because I know that there are a lot of student-athletes out there that have high GPAs that also work with the community,” said Hopkins, who recently returned to the U.S. from a MU study-abroad group. “I feel honored to be picked from this elite group of individuals.”
Hopkins, 22, played in 72 games for Coach Bob Gray’s program, which has the Herd’s Castaneda winner for the second time in four years. Hopkins’ former teammate, Zach Hunter, won the 2012-13 honor for MU.
Hopkins graduated last month with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, while minoring in Chemistry, and finishing with a 3.64 grade point average. He will head to VCU, starting classes Aug. 25, to seek a master’s degree in environmental studies.
That’s what his recent trip was about, too.
“I just got back from Bonaire, which is a small island in the Caribbean close to Aruba and north of Venezuela,” Hopkins said. “I was there with a study abroad group from Marshall for my Tropical Ecology class. We scuba dived and did fish surveys as well as coral restoration projects. I was there for just over a week.”
Hopkins made 58 starts in a Herd uniform, and his presence in the program came during a transformational time, as Marshall unveiled the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex, which will be the site of the 2016 Conference USA Tournament.
The Herd finished Hopkins’ career in style, too, playing its way into the seven-team 2015 C-USA tourney with late-season success in a do-or-die situation, then pulling two upsets as the last-seeded team in the field to reach the final before losing, 1-0, to FIU in the title match.
“I was lucky to have a great freshman class (2012-13) that only lost one person throughout my four years at Marshall and even added two others that fit well with the group,” Hopkins said when asked to reflect on his college career. “The guys I was with every day – both on and off the field – was the best part of my college experience. The coaches, too. They pushed us, helped us.
“There were plenty of great moments being on the Marshall soccer team. Some of my favorites include scoring a goal in overtime in two consecutive games as a freshman, Radford and Memphis, respectively. Another would be going to No. 7 New Mexico and needing a point to make it to the conference tournament and actually beating them 2-1 and silencing the large crowd at the game there. Last but not least, there was the great run in the conference tournament that we had this past fall.”
Hopkins has an internship with Environmental Solutions and Innovations LLC this summer, where he will gain fieldwork experience in West Virginia, North Carolina and Virginia. His goal, as he wrote is his letter of application for the Castaneda grant, is “to work as a conservation biologist to help assess potential environmental issues that arise, as well as to preserve and restore ecosystems.”
Gray, the veteran Herd boss preparing for his 40th season as a college head coach in 2016, said Hopkins is the kind of player that coaches love to have in their programs.
“I often tell my team that leadership is about action, not about words,” Gray wrote in his letter of recommendation to C-USA on Hopkins’ behalf. “Jack has certainly taken that to heart and is a strong leader on and off the field … I consider his work ethic to be unparalleled. Jack is a young man of character and professionalism.”
Dr. Frank Gilliam, the MU professor with whom Hopkins worked on field research and did research as part of the student’s capstone Project, wrote about Hopkins: “This discovery relates to the word I would use to describe Mr. Hopkins best, one that is germane to his potential for success as a graduate student and worthiness of this award: dedicated.”
Hopkins said the academic side of his college experience has aided his soccer, and vice versa, as far as discipline, stick-to-itiveness, aggressiveness and patience played a part.
“My major (biology), it was fairly difficult and required me to plan things in advance,” he said. “It sometimes required me to work on papers or study while transitioning from hotel to hotel in the bus or take online tests … sometimes even making sure to turn in my work before leaving for a trip.
“Being an athlete helped by making me schedule almost every part of my life. I think it helped me learn to persevere because sometimes I wouldn’t do as well on a paper or test that I wanted to and you just have to push through it and do better next time.
“I think that also helped with my patience because I would be stressed by having a bad grade and not being able to fix it until the next grade. I just stayed with it.
“And I want to give credit to my parents (Mark and Jill Hopkins). Without their advice and teachings, I know I wouldn’t be able to receive this award or be where I am today. They have done absolutely everything to put me in the best possible position both for soccer and for academics.”
Hopkins said leaving Marshall – he was on the Dean’s List for seven semesters -- is about much more than soccer and biology.
“Like I said, I was really close with my incoming class and my other teammates,” Hopkins said. “I know that will be the main thing I will miss about Marshall.”
Gray said Hopkins’ exit from the Herd will be felt, too.
“Jack has been a pleasure to coach the past four years,” Gray said. “He has always been a consistent performer both on and off the field, always giving his best effort. We are extremely pleased that he has been selected for this prestigious honor. He has been a true Son of Marshall and always will be.
“His passion for anything he does is contagious to all that are around him. We wish him nothing but the best for his future. We know he will be a very successful young man in whatever he pursues and will never forget the opportunity Marshall provided him.”
The list of Marshall’s winners of the Jim Castaneda Postgraduate Scholarship from Conference USA:
2005-06 – Jeff Mullins, football
2006-07 – Ian O’Connor, football
2007-08 – Britani Keeney – track and field
2008-09 – Camilla Overup, swimming and diving
2009-10 – Kristin Marcum, volleyball
2010-11 – Elizabeth Fleming, volleyball
2011-12 – Tyson Gale, football
2012-13 – Zach Hunter, men’s soccer
2013-14 – Laura Der, volleyball
2014-15 – Sammie Bane, volleyball
2015-16 – Jack Hopkins, men’s soccer