TALLAHASSEE -- By the end of the 2012 season, Dustin Hopkins could score the most points ever by a kicker in NCAA history.
The Florida State senior set a new Atlantic Coast Conference mark for field goals in Saturday’s 48-7 win over Duke, connecting on the 81st three-point kick of his career — the most ever in ACC and FSU history. His 81 field goals are just six short from breaking former UGA kicker Billy Bennett’s all-time mark.
He finished the day with 12 points, moving him to third all-time with 429 for his career — 11 shy from breaking former Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman’s career record.
Over the course of the last three games of the regular season, Hopkins is likely to break both records. If it happens in either game, it could come in cold-weather conditions as the Seminoles visit Virginia Tech and Maryland before hosting rival Florida on Thanksgiving weekend.
And while Hopkins isn’t feeling pressure, he is thankful for the extra time this week’s bye has granted him.
“To be honest I haven’t really thought about it,” Hopkins said. “It’s been good to have a bye week though. Being able to work on your craft and not have to manage your kicks as much like trying to taper towards a Saturday game, you can just go out and work on your craft for what it is.”
To Hopkins, kicking is as cerebral as it is physical. The Groza Award semifinalist, given to college football’s best kicker, is meticulous about his specialty, honing and refining every aspect in a constantly evolving process. One look at the adjustments Hopkins has made over the course of this season alone confirms that.
“[At the] beginning of the year I changed up a technique thing in the summer time just trying to be that much better, just trying to reinvent myself,” Hopkins said. “I took my track to the ball instead of my plant foot which I had been doing for the past three years. Then after a couple misses I changed it back to the way I had done it three years previous. Up until this point, it’s been going well. I’ve been feeling good. I can keep my hips more square.”
Most fans really don’t grasp the nuances of kicking a football. Kickers have to work on their form and technique, their point of contact and every aspect of their kicking motion. If Seminoles fans think it’s as simple as tee it up and kick it, it’s because Hopkins makes it look easy.
“It’s kind of like a mix between golf and baseball,” Hopkins said. “You have a swing and sometimes you hit that ball like golf. Like you hit a pitching wedge this far usually but sometimes you don’t get all of it, so you’re short and long sometimes. So I think it’s kind of like that contact-wise. But your swing, muscle memory develops and you’re constantly breaking down film to say, ‘Wow, I’m not swinging through enough or my leg loft is off.’
“But the funny thing about kicking is just that, sorry another golf comparison, but your margin for error is very small. You’ve got a maybe two inch by two inch window on the ball, you’ve got an inch window on your foot, and your timing and when you make contact are very important.”
Hopkins is also quick to add that you can’t over-think it. It’s easy to see why kickers are such basket cases because they’re considering a range of factors from their own motion to the wind, to the snap and then they’re asked to clear their heads and just kick it.
“You just go through your mental cues and do it,” Hopkins said.