DAN BICKLEY

New Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins becomes latest Valley sports star

Mar 20, 2020, 5:30 PM | Updated: 5:32 pm
DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans catches a pass and is tackled from behind by Lamarcus Joy...
DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans catches a pass and is tackled from behind by Lamarcus Joyner #29 of the Oakland Raiders at NRG Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

DeAndre Hopkins is Arizona’s newest sports star. He has great hands. He once told his brother a football could take him a long way. All he had to do was catch it.

Hopkins is 27, in his prime, under contract for three more years. He’s defiant, respectful and strong-minded. It might be a while before we meet him in person. Here’s what you should know:

His mother, Sabrina Greenlee, is the subject of a movie currently in production. Her story is one of survival. She lost her sight 17 years ago, when a jealous woman approached her in a boyfriend’s driveway, throwing a mixture of bleach and lye into her face.

That boyfriend tossed her in a car, dropped her off at a gas station and took off down the road.

It happened 17 years ago, when Hopkins was 10 years old. It happened after Hopkins’ biological father had died in a car accident while awaiting a lengthy jail sentence. Hopkins would grow up referring to his great-uncle as dad.

He and his mother have a special relationship. Sabrina is his biggest fan even though she can no longer see him play. He finds her in the crowd after every touchdown he scores and hands her the football. It’s a touching tradition that says a lot about the young man. We hope to see it frequently at State Farm Stadium.

Hopkins once donated a $29,000 playoff game check to the family of a Jazmine Barnes, a seven-year-old girl who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Houston.

“When I see Jazmine Barnes’ face, I see my own daughter,” Hopkins wrote on Twitter.

That season, he had 115 catches for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns. And he had zero drops.

His nickname is “Nuk,” derived from the brand of pacifier he preferred as child. Pronounced “Nuke,” it accurately describes what he can do to an opposing defense.

Here’s where things went south in Houston:

In 2017, Hopkins took a knee during the national anthem. Then he spoke out against late Texans owner Bob McNair, who objected to the protests by saying, “We can’t have inmates running the prison.”

McNair was heavily criticized for the remarks. Hopkins reacted by skipping practices and threatening to sit out a road game in Seattle. McNair died in 2018, leaving control of the team to his son, Cal.

In Sept. of 2019, Hopkins told USA Today why he took a stand:

“It feels like I’m a slave again. Getting ran over. Listening to the master, go to work. But I took into consideration that (McNair) was older – RIP, his soul. He was a good man, but some people they don’t really … When you grow up in certain places, you talk a certain way.”

Hopkins is an elite wide receiver. A three-time Pro Bowler. A two-time All Pro. So good that football observers were shocked when the Texans traded him for David Johnson and a second-round draft pick.

But in Houston, the hierarchy might’ve soured on Hopkins for reasons other than football, a player they couldn’t control. He clearly had issues with Texans head coach Bill O’Brien.

Hopkins wasn’t always available to practice in 2019, frustrating his coaches. He reportedly wanted a new contract, even though he was entering year three of a five-year, $81 million deal. There are new details that the Patriots also tried to acquire Hopkins, only to be turned off by potential problems or contract demands ranging between $20-22 million per season. And there was the explosive report from Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, stuff that makes O’Brien look like a heavy-handed fool.

There is a lot left to unpack regarding Hopkins departure from Houston. Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt will be asked for their opinions. To his credit, Hopkins has publicly responded to the entire incident with class and gratitude.

Simultaneously, Hopkins has resuscitated the image of Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, who just pulled off one of the most lopsided trades in history.

Hopkins should be ecstatic over the change in scenery. He has a fresh start with new ownership. He’s joining a team full of fresh energy. He has a young head coach (Kliff Kingsbury) who will treat him with respect, as a peer and a partner.

We’ll find out in the coming season what he’s all about. What he means to Kyler Murray, what he wants from the Cardinals and whether our newest star is destined to be one of the greatest heists in Arizona history.

Welcome to Arizona, DeAndre. Can’t wait to learn more.

Dan Bickley

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