All grown up, DeAndre Hopkins is turning into a star

HOUSTON -- When he plays poker, DeAndre Hopkins wears sunglasses and a hoodie, hiding his intentions from his opponents.

On the field, he's exposed.

More and more, though, that hasn't mattered. Hopkins is turning into a star.

Last weekend, Hopkins had a career day, catching nine passes for two touchdowns and 238 yards and an average of 26.4 yards per catch. It was the highest all-time, single-game average for a Texans' player with at least five catches. It's been just the next step in the development of a player who has grown up noticeably since his rookie year.

"I’m just happy to see the kid grow as a player," Texans receiver Andre Johnson said. "Comparing this year to last year, it’s amazing. It’s fun to watch. I’m glad I can be here and just see it. I’m very happy for him. Just to see him grow and I know he is going to continue to get better and better. I wish I could have had him earlier in my career."

For more than a decade, Johnson was the Texans' primary receiver and the only star they've ever had at the position. Johnson has led the team in receiving yards for 10 of the past 11 seasons.

On Sunday Hopkins became the second receiver in Texans history to have more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Johnson has done it seven times.

Hopkins had 52 catches for 802 yards as a rookie last season.

"My knowledge of knowing defensive coverages before the play is snapped or before the play starts (has improved)," Hopkins said. "Just being able to scan the defense and knowing what coverage they’re in, you kind of know where to sit down in zones and just be able to read man or zone. That’s a big thing with this offense; you have to have a knowledge of the game."

But by his own admission, he wasn't working as he should have been last season. That isn't the case anymore. When asked what changed for him, his answer was simple.

"Two-and-14," Hopkins said, citing the Texans' 2013 record.

He took for granted some of the things Johnson tried to teach him about studying the game and taking care of his body.

"I think a lot of times, when guys come into the league, a lot of times they don’t realize how much of a job it is," Johnson said. "I don’t think fans or people in general really realize that. They only see what goes on Sunday and they think these guys play a game and that’s it. They don’t realize what you go through earlier during the week, so I can definitely see a difference in him from this year to last year. His work ethic, the way he asks questions and stuff like that."

It's paid off for him in three times as many touchdown catches as he had last season. It's paid off in the trust he's earned from his quarterbacks, which has led to some spectacular grabs.