Alcorn’s Jay Hopson continues to share vision with local fansPublished 12:01am Friday, July 27, 2012
NATCHEZ — Alcorn State University alumnae Pat Carroll watched as her son and grandson both went to schools other than her alma mater.
So when Braves head coach Jay Hopson was in town Thursday night, Carroll made sure to ask Hopson about recruiting locally in Natchez.
Hopson responded by telling the story of how, when he arrived at Alcorn in late May, he only saw approximately 10 or so players from Mississippi on the team’s roster. Whether it’s recruiting Natchez, Fayette, Port Gibson or Vicksburg, Hopson said it would be important to bring in talent from Alcorn’s surrounding cities.
“So many of these athletes have grandparents and parents who played at Alcorn,” Hopson said. “It’s time to tell them to follow in their footsteps. I want as much talent locally as I can possibly stand.”
Hopson and his staff were in town for the Alcorn State University Alumni Association-Natchez Chapter Pow-Wow at Alcorn’s Natchez campus. The pow-wow gave Hopson a chance to get his message across to more Alcornites — the team needs their support, both financially and in terms of attendance. And though it was much of the same stuff he said to locals at Natchez Coffee Company last Friday, Hopson said he hasn’t gotten tired repeating it.
“It’s important, because there are different people that haven’t heard it yet, and I want to let everyone know where we’re at and where we’re going,” Hopson said.
Carroll said she was satisfied with the answer Hopson gave to her question, and she was impressed with both him and his staff as coaches.
“I’ve met Coach Hopson previously when he was at (Southern Mississippi),” Carroll said. “He recruited my grandson, Anthony Strauder, and he did an outstanding job. He’s honest, sincere and a hard worker.”
With two-a-days beginning soon, Hopson said he’s eager to see his athletes in action for the first time instead of just looking at film.
“Without spring, two-a-days is just like Christmas morning for us,” Hopson said. “We haven’t seen one of these kids practice. Then we can see, this is who this kid is, and this is what he’s about.”
Hopson also said he’s inviting all Alcornites to his practice, as long as they check to make sure no Jackson State people followed them in. He also stressed the importance of creating an electric atmosphere on game day.
“It’s all about the recruiting process and selling the university,” Hopson said. “If a kid goes to Kentucky, South Carolina or even Ole Miss and Mississippi State and sees 20,000 people at a spring game, and then he goes to Alabama and sees 95,000, he’s processing in his brain what he perceives is reality.”
Defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro and passing coordinator Fred McNair also spoke at the pow-wow. McNair said he would be recruiting the area locally.
“They’ll be tired of looking at me,” McNair said. “We’re going to do the best to get all of the Mississippi kids we can.”
Former NBA player Larry Smith, who was recently given the title of athletic development director at Alcorn, vowed to alumni that he would help raise funds to give Hopson and his staff the support they need.
“My job is simple: to raise money for these programs to succeed,” Smith said. “In order to succeed, you have to have money.”
Smith said afterward that alumni needed to engage a lot more with university athletics.
“In order to get things to where we need to get them to, it will take alumni support,” Smith said.
So far, Smith said he’s liked what he’s seen out of Hopson and his staff.
“Their No. 1 priority is always the kids,” Smith said. “We want them to be the best possible athlete and student. These kids have a tough job, because they’re trying to balance between being a student first and an athlete second.”