Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins knows that his 2020 season has not been what he and many others had hoped for. He said as much following Washington's 23-17 win over Pittsburgh on Monday.
“Obviously this hasn’t been the year I wanted to have," Hopkins said.
His description of his first 11 games stems from his inconsistencies as Washington's kicker this season. He went through a stretch where he missed a field goal in five of seven games, and some of those kicks made a major difference in the outcome. The veteran was also shaky with any kick from 40 or more yards.
Yet, in Washington's biggest game of the season on Monday, Hopkins came through when it mattered most. He went three-for-three on field goals, with all coming from 45 yards or more. That includes his final two kicks that gave Washington the lead -- and then a little cushion -- with just minutes remaining.
Those moments and kicks are never easy, and that was especially the case for Hopkins in 2020. But, he did it. A major reason why is because during the outside noise, struggles and adversity, he never stopped believing in himself.
“You have to trust where you are as an athlete and what’s gotten you there and just keep trusting who you are, what you’ve done and what you can be," Hopkins said.
While Hopkins never personally wavered on his abilities, that alone didn't save his job and earn him second chances to once again shine. Head coach Ron Rivera played a role as well. He never gave up on the kicker either. Even if he could have.
Facing numerous questions about a kicking change earlier in the season, Rivera noted that he would evaluate options but he had confidence that Hopkins could find his way back to his original form. That support was big for Hopkins during the down weeks.
Rivera's presence as a whole was helpful. Seeing the way the head coach carried himself and worked with his players, Hopkins knows the right man is in charge in Washington and he is ready to trust whatever decisions are made.
"Even had he made a change, I’m really impressed with the way coach handles himself in a number of different ways. The way he talks to guys, the way he addresses the team, the way he bounces back from tough losses," Hopkins said. "The way he reacts to wins. I’ve just been really impressed as a coach and as a man.”
Resilience and never giving up is something the entire Washington Football Team has worked to embody in 2020, and Hopkins has surely been a part of that. While he never doubted his abilities, Monday allowed him to see all three of his kicks go through the uprights and contribute to a huge win.
“It felt good, man," Hopkins said.