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Get to know new Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins

Now that the Cade York experiment is over, what can we expect from Hopkins?

Los Angeles Chargers v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The coaching staff of the Cleveland Browns each week praised K Cade York after every game of the preseason despite his lackluster results and inconsistent nature.

It had been mentioned numerous times to have another kicker in camp for antagonism, but every time head coach Kevin Stefanski would state things like “he is his own competition” or similar things that didn’t make much sense. Competition is always healthy and besides, a veteran would have helped York as much as he could. All specialists help each other.

And now, right before the season is about to begin, the Browns don’t have York in their plans regarding the 53-man final roster. Raise your hand if you have been screaming for that to happen.

In his stead, is veteran Dustin Hopkins. Who is the new guy? Is he really the answer or just another stopgap kicker? How did he get to Cleveland? Were there better choices?


Like a ton of NFL players, Hopkins hails from Texas. He was born in Austin and then raised in Houston where he attended Clear Lake High School. Hopkins’ parents are hard-working Texans. His father Jim operates Daleigh Construction whereas his mom is a successful interior designer. The Christian family also has a sister, Haleigh, who is a nurse. Like most Texans, chicken fried steak is Hopkins’ favorite meal.

A soccer player all of his life, Hopkins (6’-2”, 205 pounds) suffered a hamstring injury and was out of the loop for his high school squad. In the meantime, he went out for football and became his school’s kicker and starting cornerback where he had two interceptions in his senior year. He also ran track and performed in musicals.

He was Senior Vice President of Student Government, Homecoming King, and Prom King. He then graduated with honors with a 4.0 weighted GPA and was a member of the National Honor Society.

Coming out of high school, Hopkins was the Number 1 ranked kicker in the nation and known for a powerful leg. His longest kick was 49-yards. He was named Two Time First Team 5A Texas All-State and was a USA Today First Team All-American as a senior. Hopkins was selected to play in the Under Armour High School All-America Game.

He had scholarship offers from Missouri, Notre Dame, Florida State, USC, Kansas State and two colleges close to home: Baylor and Texas A&M.

Hopkins chose Florida State where he won the starting kicker job as a freshman.

His college stats:

2009 (freshman)

Field goal attempts: 27

Field goals converted: 19

PATs: 40-44

Blocked kicks: 0

Total Points: 97

2010 (sophomore)

Field goal attempts: 28

Field goals converted: 22

PATs: 53-53

Blocked kicks: 0

Total Points: 119

2010 (junior)

Field goal attempts: 27

Field goals converted: 22

PATs: 44-44

Blocked kicks: 0

Total Points: 110

2010 (senior)

Field goal attempts: 30

Field goals converted: 25

PATs: 65-66

Blocked kicks: 0

Total Points: 140

As far as accolades, as a junior at FSU Hopkins was named Honorable Mention All-American and First Team All-ACC. In his final year, he was selected First Team All-American and First Team All-ACC. In 2011 he set a new FSU record for kicking 109 PATs in a row. In 2012, Hopkins set the NCAA D-1 record for career points scored by a kicker at 448 points. He was also a finalist for the Lou Groza Award.

Hopkins proposed to his future wife Gabrielle on the 50-yard line of Doak-Walker Stadium, home of Florida State, during his senior year.

Furthermore, the now 32-year-old is an avid hunter and is very proud of his Christian faith, and has always been grateful to Jesus for looking after him and his family. He is married to his stunning wife Gabrielle Renee Hopkins going on nine years now.

They have a six-year-old son Wake Steele Hopkins. Wake was diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) when he was 18 months old. Having a child alone is enough for any parent, but one that needs constant care requires frustrations, anguish, fears, tears, and uncertainties.

Hopkins’ Instagram handle is @dustinhopkins3.

He was invited to the Combine and impressed with a 40 time of 4.74. He is also known for making tackles on special teams being a former defensive back.

NFL opportunity

Hopkins was selected by the Buffalo Bills with the 177th pick in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft. He signed a four-year $2,272,000 contract including a $112,000 signing bonus, $112,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $568,000.

By the end of his rookie training camp, he was named the starting kicker over veteran Rian Lindell. But in early September, he suffered a groin injury which Buffalo signed kicker Dan Carpenter to kick while Hopkins rehabbed. However, the recovery was very slow and Hopkins was placed on IR for the remainder of the season. In training camp the following year, the Bills chose Carpenter and released Hopkins on the final cutdown.

Four months later, Hopkins was signed to the practice squad of the New Orleans Saints. He again competed in training camp with the incumbent, and once again was released on the final cutdown.

New York Giants v Washington Football Team Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Nine days later, the Washington Redskins signed him after they cut their veteran kicker Kai Forbath. Highlights from that season were a 56-yard field goal versus the Carolina Panthers, four FGs against the Saints, a conversion rate of 81.0%, and a franchise record set of 34 converted field goals.

The following season, in 2017, after a tremendous start with a completion ratio of 82.4%, Hopkins suffered a partially torn hip muscle and was again placed on IR. During the off-season, the Redskins gave him a three-year extension worth $7.45 million with a $1.2 million signing bonus with the equivalent guaranteed. In the next two seasons, Hopkins would miss just eight field goal attempts and two PATs.

2020 was not kind to Hopkins. He missed three game-winning kicks and by Week 12 the media was already asking Washington head coach Ron Rivera if they were considering bringing in another kicker to which Rivera confirmed that the staff had been discussing that very thing. The next week, Hopkins went 3-3 on field goal attempts and 2-2 on PATs and was awarded the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. In the off-season, he was re-signed.

Halfway through the 2021 season, the Redskins released Hopkins and brought up K Chris Blewitt from their practice squad. Six days later, the Los Angeles Chargers signed him and he played in 11 games. His stats were 18-20 on field goals for the Chargers plus 30-32 on PATs. During the 2022 off-season, Los Angeles decided to keep Hopkins and inked him to a three-year extension worth $9 million which included $4.6 guaranteed.

In Week 6, he injured his hamstring but remained active in the game and kicked four field goals including the game-winner. Hopkins was named AFC Player of the Week. The injury kept him inactive for the next four games and eventually, he was placed on IR. The Chargers then brought up practice squad K Cameron Dicker. And yes, he is “Dicker the Kicker.” In training camp this year, the Chargers kept both kickers as competition.

Basically, the job was Dicker’s to lose. Hopkins had been regulated to being the second-team guy. The fact that Dicker has been taking all the kicks within the last week of training camp was very noteworthy.

With Hopkins’ experience, it was expected that he wouldn’t make it through waivers anyway given his reputation around the league. Having two quality kickers on the roster was a great problem to have for the Chargers. And with cutdown day looming, they had a decision to make. Next, they traded Hopkins to Cleveland for a 2025 seventh-round draft pick.

And now?

An undisclosed injury to Hopkins sidelined him for a bit during his battle with Dicker in Chargers training camp. But as he became healthy, it was too little too late. He will be expected to become a major contributor to the Browns who have playoff aspirations.

Hopkins’ career numbers are 190 field goals made on 224 attempts, long of 56 yards, and 211 PAT conversions on 234 attempts. The breakdown of those field goals is: under 19 yards: 2-2; 20-29 yards: 53-54; 30-39 yards: 57-61; 40-49 yards: 63-77; 50-59 yards: 15-30. His career field goal conversion is 84.8% while with PATs 94.4%.

Hopkins is known for his toughness and ability to play with pain. He is also a player who has been hurt quite a bit.

Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco praised Hopkins on Monday:

“From the day he arrived here, Dustin has been the consummate professional and a teammate anyone would love to have. He’s made some big-time contributions to our organization, both on and off the field, and perhaps none more memorable than his game-winning kick last year on Monday night. On behalf of everyone at the Chargers, I want to wish Dustin, Gabby, and his entire family continued success in Cleveland.”

It is very possible that York lands on the Browns’ practice squad. After all, they drafted him and spent a lot of time and effort on his development. A lot of kickers struggle their first few years and then finally advance their talents into productivity. Plus, Hopkins is not the most durable, and if they can work on York longer it is a good possibility. Phil Dawson’s rookie season he was 66.7% in field goals. Don Cockroft’s second year he hit on only 52.2%.

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Hopkins must show more consistency but is stellar with kickoffs. He has played in cold weather environments playing eight seasons in DC and was successful.

He has a high-kick trajectory, is an above-average athlete, and has reliable accuracy. The 56-yarder he booted is pretty much his range, but at Florida State, he nailed nine kicks of 50 yards plus. Zero blocked kicks in his career are a huge advantage. On kickoffs, he is able to directionally place the football to help contain dangerous returners.

Since Cleveland is in “win now” fashion this year, a dependable kicker is paramount.

What does the 10-year veteran bring to the Browns? One word: stability.