MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. – Westlake High School football player Tommy Hopkins officially signed his letter of intent to play for the University of Connecticut on Wednesday afternoon.
Hopkins, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive lineman for the Wildcats, signed his letter in the library of Westlake High School after a nearly hour-long presentation that featured speeches from family, faculty, coaches and teammates.
Loved ones cracked jokes, cried and offered words of praise to Hopkins as he sat in front of a room full of students during the ceremony, which began shortly after noon.
“It was great, everyone coming out to support,” Hopkins said. “I’m really going to miss Westlake next year. I’m going to miss all my friends and teammates and stuff. I had a great time here the last four years. I’ll always cherish those memories.”
Hopkins visited UConn several times throughout his sophomore and junior years, and it remained his favorite among Syracuse University, Penn State University and Temple University. The school made him an offer on a Friday in April and he verbally committed the following Monday.
“I knew that’s where I wanted to go. Why wait for other offers?” Hopkins said.
Westlake head coach Rich Hennessy said Hopkins is in for plenty of hard work at UConn, which went 2-5 in the Big East last season, 5-7 overall, but he fully expects him to push himself at the next level. The coach knows he and the team must move on without him physically, but not emotionally.
“The emotional connection will never sever. I know that from knowing him and knowing how his heart will always be here,” Hennessy said. “I also know when he does come back, he will fall into that role as someone to look up to. … How kids are going to look up to him, I don’t think that’s ever going to end because he’s separated himself from other football players by what he’s been able to accomplish.”
The offensive lineman and his family spoke about Hopkins attending Westlake games as a child and admiring the "giant" high school athletes who charged down the hill and onto the field. Now his official time as a Wildcat has come and gone, but Hopkins will always remember Westlake.
“When I was little, I used to go to all the games and high five the players who walked down the hill. I always looked up to them, wished I could be like them one day,” Hopkins said.
“It was a dream come true walking down the hill the first time. You really can’t describe it. The only people who know that feeling are the guys that really played at Westlake. It is bittersweet. I’m really going to miss playing with my teammates.”