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Alcorn head coach Jay Hopson visits Natchez with SWAC trophy

Alcorn State University head football coach Jay Hopson talks to Alcorn State alumni Andre Young, left, and Fred Marsalis, right, during a meet-and-greet at Magnolia Bluffs Casino.  Hopson led the Braves to a Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship last season. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Alcorn State University head football coach Jay Hopson talks to Alcorn State alumni Andre Young, left, and Fred Marsalis, right, during a meet-and-greet at Magnolia Bluffs Casino. Hopson led the Braves to a Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship last season. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — For most sports fans, the opportunity to meet the coach of their favorite team or snap a photo with a championship trophy are rare.

But for Miss-Lou Alcorn State fans, that opportunity arose Wednesday as Braves head coach Jay Hopson and athletic director Derek Horne made their way to Natchez with the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship trophy for a meet-and-greet with alumni and fans at Magnolia Bluffs Casino.

“This is always fun because that is our lifeblood, our alumni and fan support,” Hopson said. “That is what this is all about. This is what we need to be successful and we appreciate everybody coming out and supporting the Braves.”

Hopson made his rounds, shaking hands and having conversations with excited Alcorn fans, and also shared that he is ready to get things rolling for the 2015 season.

“It is always fun to look at the trophy, but we have to channel on into 2015,” he said. “But this was a great and fun year to reflect back on.”

Horne said events like the one Wednesday are imperative for Alcorn to continue to grow.

“The support has been there for a while and having coach Hopson here and with what we are trying to do with the fan experience, I think it will bring people back,” Horne said. “That is what we are looking forward to and that is why we are down here in Natchez, to really let our fans and alumni down here know that we want them to come up to The Reservation. We have to reach out in southwest Mississippi. Natchez is a place where great athletes and great people are.”

Alcorn recently hosted a pro day, which Hopson said went well.

“We had a great pro day,” he said. “We had two or three guys that really shined, and we are certainly hoping that reflects with some guys getting into NFL camps.”

As for Hopson, the trophy tours will soon come to an end, as he and his team get into the nitty-gritty of spring practice.

“We finished day one Tuesday and it was kind of a normal first day,” Hopson said. “I thought fundamentally we were good. Certainly, we have to get more precise, but all-in-all, it was pretty much a normal first practice with the good, bad and the ugly.”

With a championship already under his belt after just three years at the helm, Hopson is hoping to keep pushing Alcorn to new heights.

“We are trying to get better every year,” he said. “That is the goal and the mission. In football, you can’t ever get content, you have to want to get better and hopefully we are on a journey to getting better. As coaches and players, we know we have to be committed to that in order to be successful.”