When it's over, when DeAndre Hopkins is done leaping up and over stunned Tennessee Titans cornerback Jason McCourty for the final time, when he's cradling a game-winning touchdown in his size 3XL hands, he finally hits the ground.
And almost immediately finds himself getting a lift. Veteran Houston Texans center Chris Myers tugs on the rookie's jersey and raises him up into the air.
Why not? Hopkins carried the Texans late in the fourth quarter and overtime, pushing a team with Super dreams to its second straight frantic comeback win. He deserves a lift from someone else. As Myers holds Hopkins up in the air, the ecstatic cheers of the largest crowd in Texans history (or at least the chunk of the crowd that didn't leave early) pelt him with love.
Two games into his NFL career, Hopkins has 12 catches — and the Texans are averaging more than 30 points per game.
These are the roars of a crowd celebrating a new star. There's nothing like the first time. Texans 30, Titans 24 in overtime — in what will be forevermore known as the DeAndre Hopkins Game. Which happens to be the big target from Clemson's second NFL game ever. Even J.J. Watt didn't completely take over a game this early in his career.
"I'm speechless," veteran Texans tight end Owen Daniels says. "For him to make that many plays at that point in the game . . . it's incredible."
Legend will have it that DeAndre Hopkins takes over this game after Andre Johnson crumples to the ground (while holding onto the football for a crucial catch) on Bernard Pollard's dirty hit to the head in the fourth quarter. But the truth is Hopkins is starting to dominate even before Johnson goes out and the burden switches to him.
Hopkins catches 23, 13 and 28-yard passes from Matt Schaub on back-to-back-to-back plays before Johnson is sandwiched. Hopkins didn't just win the game with two great catches in overtime. In truth, he set up the game-tying touchdown drive as well.
"Insane," third-year Texans linebacker Brooks Reed says when Hopkins' name is brought up. "You just throw the ball up there and he'll find a way to come down with it. You know how much pressure that puts on a defense?"
Enough to break the Tennessee Titans' newly ferocious defense.
If you relatively contain Andre Johnson (76 yards) and Arian Foster (85 total yards), you have an awfully good chance of beating the Texans. The Titans didn't count on the rookie — the 27th pick in the last NFL draft (it's not like Hopkins is a Can't Miss Top 10 prospect) — climbing up all over their gameplan and knocking it down to nothingness though.
Hopkins finishes with seven catches for 117 yards — the second most ever for a Texans rookie receiver — and averages a whopping 16.7 yards per grab. Want a indication of how comfortable Matt Schaub is throwing to him just two games in? He targets Hopkins 13 times on Sunday, the same number he targets Johnson himself.
"I think he has webbed fingers," veteran Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith cracks.
No, just those large ones. Then again, maybe . . . "The ball just seems to stick in them," Hopkins allows.
Two games into his NFL career Hopkins has 12 catches and nearly 200 yards of offense — and the Texans are averaging more than 30 points per game. Think No. 10 changes anything?
Right now, the rookie's holding onto a little chip on his shoulder too.
"Because I didn’t go out there and run a 4.2 or a 4.3, which is amazing," Hopkins says of why he lasted until the 27th pick. "Anybody can see that I’m a football player and I make plays.”
They sure can now.