New Rams tight end Brycen Hopkins admits he was a little surprised to hear his name called by them in the fourth round on Saturday, but Los Angeles perhaps turned out to be one of the best places for him to begin his NFL career.
The 136th pick and former Purdue standout will be reuniting with his former college strength coach, Rams Director of Strength and Conditioning Justin Lovett, and teaming up with a tight end he's very familiar with in Tyler Higbee.
"Coach Lovett, who actually was the head of my strength and conditioning staff (at Purdue), is there now, so that's one relationship I have that I know I'm going to enjoy," Hopkins said on a video conference Saturday morning. "As well as Tyler Higbee, who played under Coach Brohm at WKU, so I think it will be a great room that I will be an addition to."
Higbee played under Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm at Western Kentucky, and Hopkins said he would watch a lot of film on Higbee and the way WKU used its tight ends during his time at Purdue. It proved to be an effective approach over the last three years, too, as Hopkins' numbers show.
As a redshirt freshman, he caught 10 passes for 183 yards and four touchdowns playing in 11 games (one start). His redshirt sophomore season, he had 25 receptions, 349 yards and three touchdowns. Then came a breakout redshirt junior season with 34 catches for 583 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games (four starts).
He concluded his career receiving first-team Associated Press All-American, Big Ten Tight End of the Year, and first-team all-conference honors after tallying 61 receptions for 830 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games (11 starts) as a redshirt senior.
"I think one of my strengths is my ability to create separation at the top of routes and use my athleticism to go up and get the ball," Hopkins said, when asked to assess his strengths and areas of improvement. "I want to become a more consistent catcher. I don't have bad hands, I just think I can concentrate more on that ball and look it in."
Hopkins said he had a "good amount" of contact with the Rams before the draft at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, and that they had sent scouts to talk with some of his coaches at Purdue about him before the season.
That interest came to fruition Saturday, ending a long wait.
"Man, the anxiety is crazy. It kind of eats away at you," Hopkins said. "You don't know where you're going to go, it's uncertain, but once your name is called, it makes up for everything. It makes up for all that time before."
Welcome to LA, Brycen Hopkins! Meet the tight end from Purdue.