HOUSTON — On Aug. 31, DeAndre Hopkins signed a contract making him the highest-paid wide receiver in football, while the city around him was experiencing major flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Three days later he spent a Sunday morning handing out supplies to those affected by the storm as part of teammate J.J. Watt’s relief efforts in the city of Houston. On the bus ride back to the team’s facility, Hopkins described the “bittersweet” moment he signed a five-year, $81 million extension, with $49 million guaranteed, as well as his mom’s reaction to the deal, his biggest influence in the NFL and his anticipation for Sunday’s season opener against Jacksonville.
Robert Klemko: You’re out here with teammates handing out supplies to people in need. Why did you feel like that was important today?
DeAndre Hopkins: This city has supported me my whole career, through the 2-14 season, through the bad publicity. Basically everything we’ve endured, this city has always supported this team and its players like we’re from here. It feels like home. I’ve only been here four years but it’s home. So it’s only right that I do what I can.
RK: You got some of the best news of your life this week while the city was facing a natural disaster. What was that like?
DH: It was a bittersweet feeling. I work my whole career for that day, to get that deal. But at the same time the city is going through one of its worst tragedies in a long time. It comes down to, what can you do as a human being to help, with the platform that you have? God blessed me with the platform to help others at a pivotal time. After everything settles, I’d like to see what I can do to help people in the long term as opposed to the short term.
RK: You and your mom have been through so much. How did she take the news of your new contract?
DH: My mom is the type of woman—she’s been through so much in life, she don’t get too high and she don’t get too low. She was excited, at first, because she knows this is going to change our family’s life. But at the same time she’s humble. She wasn’t on the phone screaming. The first thing she did was pray. She said a prayer to protect over me, for continued success. I think that’s why I am like I am. When it happened, everyone else was more excited than her, because her and I have been together through everything.
RK: How did you get the news that the deal was happening?
DH: My phone was actually broken the day the hurricane hit. I didn’t know it was going to be so bad, so I thought it might be two days going without a phone, but it ended up being a week. The day I got the deal was the day I had a chance to go to the Apple store and get it fixed. Until then I was in the crib with no phone, just email. My agent called my sister, and he’s like, this deal is about to be done. Where’s DeAndre? So we spoke on my sister’s phone.
RK: Were you fairly certain it would happen before the season started?
DH: I have confidence in this management. They know I’m going to continue to play at a high caliber no matter the circumstances around me.
RK: What’s it going to feel like to run out of that tunnel on Sunday for the season opener?
DH: Especially after everything that’s happened, the excitement is going to be crazy. I don’t think anybody’s going to leave that field with anything left in the tank. I feel like we’re playing for something bigger. This team was already hungry, because of how close we’ve gotten in the last several years. We needed to have that Patriots game last year and have that taste still in our mouth. Now we’re ready.
RK: You’ve caught passes from Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brock Osweiler ... I think a lot of guys in your position could justifiably blame low production on the QB carousel.
DH: That’s an excuse. If you’re a wide receiver, you have to produce with what you have. Whenever the ball comes your way you have to take advantage. I don’t like to talk about myself, but I think Larry Fitzgerald and I have the lowest drop rate in the NFL. And I think that’s about having this mindset that no matter who is throwing you the ball, no matter what kind of ball it is, I’m gonna have to come down with it and not make excuses.
RK: You put your stamp on Tom Savage and endorsed him as starter. How do you bring Deshaun Watson along as he grows in the position?
DH: There are a lot of things I’ve been talking to him about, little pointers. It’s only so much he can see on the field, back there, and as a receiver I can help him out. Talking about coverages, understanding what I’m seeing out there, and that I give him a certain look, expect me to do this. And in training camp it showed. He’s out there making throws a veteran makes.
RK: What’s the most important thing you did that got you to this commitment from the franchise?
DH: I think the most important thing I’ve done in this league is just to listen to guys who have had success in this league, guys like Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. You see guys who come in the league who don’t listen, and their careers get shortened because they think they know it all. This isn’t college. The guy I learned the most from is Andre Johnson. Andre has been in this organization, in this city, on teams that haven’t won playoff games. He played with multiple quarterbacks. We’re almost in the same situation, record-wise. And I just watched how he worked, watching what he did while he was here, how he approached everything. It was crazy, because the guy could have complained about so much stuff, but he never did. That’s what I try to do: Never complain, just go out and work.
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