Hopkins will continue football career at Jacksonville State


John Henson

Harlan County High School senior Demarco Hopkins signed with Jacksonville State on Thursday to continue his football career. Joining Hopkins for the signing were his mom, Feliciz Hopkins; father, Perry King; and sisters, Daesha Carr and Dekyia Hopkins. Also shown, standing, from the left, are HCHS athletic director Eugene Farmer, Principal Kathy Napier, HCHS football coach Amos McCreary, Marilyn Williamson, Eddie Creech and Denny Farmer.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Demarco Hopkins has taken a roundabout path to where he found himself Thursday, signing with Jacksonville State to put himself in position to become the first Harlan County High School football player to compete as a member of a Division I team.
Hopkins didn’t even play football as a freshman, spending his first fall on the soccer field before former HCHS coach Eddie Creech convinced him to make a change.
Hopkins wanted to carry the football after seeing very little action in the backfield in his first two seasons. Creech told him he had to lose weight and get in shape. He found trainer Brandon Bell and went to work in the weightroom and slowly began to contribute with 350 yards as a junior in 2020 and then 892 yards in what turned out to be his first senior season of 2021.
Hopkins wanted to play college football but there wasn’t a lot of interest, at least from bigger schools. A rule passed by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association due to covid gave Hopkins a second chance at a senior season and he responded with 1,508 yards and 21 touchdowns last fall under first-year coach Amos McCreary, earning the selection as 13th Region Media Network Running Back of the Year.
Thanks in large part to McCreary’s position as a Jacksonville State graduate and former player, Hopkins received a look from Jacksonville State coaches, who watched film, then invited Hopkins for a visit and gave him an opportunity to join the program. He signed with the Alabama school on Thursday in ceremonies at HCHS.
“I liked the coaching staff and I feel it’s a great fit for me,” Hopkins said. “I want to go into sports management, and they have a great program.”
McCreary said a former teammate of his in college, Loring White, helped set up a visit to Jacksonville State. Hopkins joins a program that was once a Division II power, including when McCreary played there in the mid to late 1970s.
“It is very special to me,” McCreary said. “The people down there always treated me wonderfully, and it’s a great place. We won three conference championships and played for the national championship in 1977 and got to the quarterfinals in 1978.”
Jacksonville State moved up to Division I-AA and played in the Ohio Valley Conference from 2003 to 2020, winning seven league titles. The Gamecocks moved to the ASUN Conference this season and will play in Conference USA and join FBS competition in 2023.
McCreary expects Hopkins, at 6-foot and 205 pounds, to play running back in Jacksonville State’s spread offense.
“They got to meet him and saw his films and that’s when they offered him,” McCreary said. “They need a big back who can run and catch it, and that’s what they want him to do. I think they’d like to see him get up to about 225.”
Hopkins is competing in track for the first time this spring and has found overnight success, winning three races already in the 100 meters and teaming with Thomas Jordan, Luke Carr and Luke Kelly to set school records in both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays.
“Track is different and one of the main things is staying loose. Track has helped me get 20 times looser and it’s made me faster and a better all-around runner,” said Hopkins, who added that he was looking forward to the challenge ahead in college.
“My coaches and trainers have helped get me ready, and I’m excited about it,” he said. “They usually have one back in their offensive sets with four receivers.”
Hopkins finished third in career rushing at HCHS with 2,834 yards over four years, trailing only Jake Middleton (3,938 yards) and Marcus McMillan (4,271 yards). His single-season total of 1,508 yards as a senior trailed only Nathaniel Gilliam (1,869 yards), McMillan (2,010 yards) and Middleton (2,141 yards).