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Praises for Hopson have been earned

Like many in his profession, Alcorn State head football coach Jay Hopson likes to credit others with the success he’s had.

Players have to make plays. Position coaches have to get the most out of their units. Offensive and defensive coordinators have to put together a good game plan that the players are capable of executing.

Hopson often preaches the idea that teams win games when they “deserve to win.” In other words, if the players make plays, the coaches get the most out of their units and the coodinators put together good game plans, wins will naturally result. No doubt Hopson views his team as a machine that must be firing on all cylinders in order to work well. Everyone plays an important role.

But make no mistake — as the head coach, Hopson is the central gear that makes the clock tick. If he isn’t performing the way he’s supposed to, the clock is only going to be right twice a day.

How’s he doing in that regard? Well, the Braves recently finished their season 9-3 overall, 7-2 in Southwestern Athletic Conference play, including a 48-33 win against Jackson State in the Tigers’ own backyard Nov. 16. Jackson State would go on to lose to Southern University in the SWAC title game — the same Southern team Alcorn topped in overtime during the regular season, 44-38.

That’s two wins for Alcorn against both teams that made it to the SWAC championship. Not too bad for a second-year head coach at a program that has struggled mightily since the days of Steve McNair lining up under center.

Hopson is one of 20 finalists for the Eddie Robinson Football Championship Subdivision Coach of the Year award. The winner will be announced at a banquet in Philadelphia Monday. Based on the work he’s done this past season, Hopson would certainly be a worthy recipient.

“It’s certainly an honor, but I give all the credit to the players and assistant coaches,” Hopson said when it was announced he was a finalist. “Everything is team-related.”

True to his humble nature, Hopson deferred attention to those he’s surrounded by. And his supporting cast certainly deserves a lot of credit. Ten Alcorn players were named to the All-SWAC team, including five that were first-teamers. Running back Arnold Walker was named the league’s co-offensive player of the year after leading the SWAC in rushing yards at 1,191.

The players were the ones on the field winning games, so it’s only natural for the head coach to point at them as the reason for the team’s success. Since Hopson isn’t omnipresent, he can’t coach every position at once, so it’s also natural for Hopson to sing his assistant coaches’ praises.

Let’s be honest, though. Before Hopson came along, Alcorn wasn’t winning much. Alcorn president M. Christopher Brown II made a somewhat controversial decision to hire Hopson, a white coach, in May 2012 at an historically black university. So far, Brown’s selection of Hopson as the head man is proving to be a home-run hire.

Hopson rightly thinks his supporting cast deserves a lot of accolades. But ultimately, any success or failure falls on him as the head coach. As he likes to say, you win when you deserve to win — and he deserves it, because he’s earned it.