December 7, 2011 - by
One Fine Finalist

Dec. 7, 2011

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Florida State junior kicker Dustin Hopkins spent the first two days of the week in West Palm Beach, participating in a variety of activities leading up to Tuesday night’s Lou Groza Award Banquet at the Kravis Center. Over the course of his stay, Hopkins and fellow Groza Award finalists Randy Bullock (Texas A&M) and Caleb Sturgis (Florida) visited patients Children’s Hospital at St. Mary’s Medical Center and helped conduct a youth kicking clinic Monday, then took part in a couple first-class functions hosted by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. Those activities led up to Tuesday night’s black-tie awards event – the 20th anniversary of the Lou Groza Awards banquet – where Hopkins and his fellow finalists were honored.

On Wednesday, Hopkins and the other Groza Award finalists, headed to Orlando where they will take part in the activities leading up to Thursday’s ESPN College Football Awards show. Before departing, Hopkins spent a few minutes talking about his experiences in West Palm Beach.

Q: What have been some of the highlights of the week as a Lou Groza Award finalist?

A: “I was really happy that they moved back the Children’s Hospital visit, because while all the fancy events are nice and it’s an honor to be at them, that was probably one of the more rewarding visits for me. The whole experience is first class. It’s a first-class award, the way they treat their candidates. It’s a blessing to be here.”

Q: What has the experience been like spending time with the other finalists and their families?

A: “It’s a little different than talking to Caleb before the [Florida] game on Saturday than hanging out at the hotel with his parents and my parents. It’s good to see the guys with, for the lack of a better term, with their hair let down; just hanging out and being a regular human being than just a kicker. I’ve known Randy from a few [kicking] camps and talked to Caleb maybe three times before or after games. It’s good to see that side of them.”

Q: Florida State has produced a pair of former Groza Award winners in Sebastian Janikowski and Graham Gano. When did it dawn on you that you were now among the many elite kickers who have been finalists and winners of this award?

A: “I guess it’s a goal that you always work for, that always seems at a little distance. Being here and realizing that you’re one of the final three, meeting the Groza family member and the committee members for the Groza Award, a sense of reality kicks in and you realize how close you are. You’re glad you hard work has paid off.”

Q: Where did the Lou Groza Award fit into your list of goals that you hoped to accomplish?

A: “Even in high school it was on my goals of things to do. I don’t think I ever said I wanted to be a Lou Groza finalist. I probably said it was to win the Lou Groza Award. I feel like in my freshman and sophomore year I was more focused on that than I was this year. I kind of took the mentality this year that if I focused on the things that make me successful on every kick, then the accolades and things like that would come.”

Q: Are you excited for the chance to spend a couple more days with some of college football’s top players in Orlando, leading up to Thursday night’s ESPN College Football Awards banquet?

A: “It’s going to be fun. Everybody says (Wednesday) is a fun night. It will be cool to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in college football; guys that you know are going to make a huge impact at the next level after setting records at their schools. To be able to take pictures and take in some memories and just enjoy the work that you’ve put in and spot you’re in and live in that moment.”

Q: Whether or not you win the award, how will this week motivate you moving forward as you prepare for your senior season in 2012?

A: “It definitely makes me hungry to be back where I am. Even though this event is first class and they do everything at a classy level, your goal isn’t to `come back for the food or the festivities.’ You want to be the best at what you do. It’s definitely I want to happen again next year, because I’m striving to be the best next year. That’s always the goal.”

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