Kicking Things Off with Ben Hopfinger
This fall, St. Thomas Aquinas kicker Ben Hopfinger (6’0, 165) will walk-on at the University of Miami. Hopfinger is known for his booming kickoffs, placing 30 of his 34 attempts into the end zone. He was also 12-for-12 on Point After Touchdowns (PAT) last year. Being behind one of the nation’s most highly sought after kickers didn’t provide many opportunities, but Hopfinger took advantage of his chances, becoming a kickoff specialist, and earning an invitation to Coral Gables. With the coaching staff wanting to lighten K/P Matt Bosher’s load, Hopfinger has an excellent chance to kickoff for the Hurricanes this season.
Hailing from one of the top high school football programs in the country, Hopfinger will join Michael Irvin and Leonard Hankerson, among others, and fellow classmates Keion Payne, Brandon Linder, and Jermaine Barton as Raiders who have attended the University of Miami. “Playing for St. Thomas Aquinas has been a blessing. It’s one of the premiere programs in the country. The talent on this team is remarkable. The talent in South Florida is superior, and it prepares us well for the next level.”
“Kicking off is what I like most. I had more opportunities in high school to do that. I worked more on kickoffs throughout the year because that was what I was asked to do, and I knew that was my ticket to college. Miami told me that they would like Bosher to do field goals and punts, because kicking off wears out your leg over the course of the season. When you do all three, that’s tough. If I can go down there and execute kickoffs like I’ve been doing, I feel like I have a great chance of getting some playing time.”
Hopfinger explained his recruitment to Miami. “I didn’t have many other options. Illinois State offered a partial. Miami (OH) was looking at me, but they never pulled the trigger (on an offer). North Dakota State came in late, but they took someone else. I feel that I can play at Miami, and I want to get a good education, too. As far as education and athletics, my family and I felt like Miami was the best fit for me and my future.”
Miami really didn’t turn up the heat on Hopfinger until the first half of last season. “I went with Jermaine Barton to the Georgia Tech game. After that game, the staff contacted me. I stayed in touch them, and met them on the field after the Oklahoma game. The coaches stayed on me after that. There was no other school that showed me that much interest, and ultimately, my decision was already made.”
I inquired about Hopfinger’s feelings regarding the negativity surrounding this recruiting class in the media. “People get caught up in the stars, but they really don’t mean anything. Coach Shannon told me he’s looking for the right guys. I’ve been a ‘Canes fan all my life, and UM has had plenty of five-star prospects that didn’t pan out. There are tons of three and four-star guys playing NFL ball right now. It doesn’t really matter about stars. What matters is the individual and what he’s willing to work for, his character and heart.”
He also discussed the transition from kicking off a tee (in high school) for place kicking, versus kicking off-the-ground. “You have to get used to it. The tee allows more room for error. Off-the-ground, you have to get a good solid hit on the sweet spot. Right now, I’m kicking fine, just like I did off a tee. I’m getting stronger and that makes a difference. My farthest field goal off-the-ground is 60 yards, in practice. My farthest in a game was 40, in the USA All-Star Game.”
Being a lifelong fan of the program, I had to ask him about what he thought the future holds for the Miami Hurricanes. “We have good things coming. I think when Coach Shannon signed his contract extension, that helped Miami tremendously. We know, as players, he’s invested in this program. We have a really good group of guys coming in with tons of talent. If we can put this talent together, we can make a serious run for the ACC Championship, and perhaps a National Championship. But first, we have to take care of the ACC.”
We thank Ben for taking the time to interview with Eye of the Hurricane and we look forward to seeing him orange and green in the fall!