CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Every football player has a back story, a motivating factor that pushes them towards greatness. Germone Hopper calls Caleigh his why.
“You’re doing it? Kick your legs up, keep it up,” Hopper says as his nearly two-year-old daughter mimics his warmup on a football field in Charlotte.
When Caleigh is older, she’ll remember the workouts and her father’s hard work, but not the bumpy road he overcame to get there.
Hopper was a standout at Phillip O’Berry before going on to play wide receiver at Clemson. He was there when the Tigers lost the 2016 National Championship game in Phoenix.
“I remember Deshaun [Watson] telling me, ‘Don’t hang your head; we’ll be back. And that’s exactly what happened,” Hopper recalled.
Except when the Tigers won the 2017 National Championship Hopper wasn’t there. With a lot going on at home included preparation for his daughter, he quit the program after his junior season. On January 9, Hopper watched from a couch as his former teammates won Clemson’s second National Title.
“Guys texted me, said don’t give up, it just kept me going,” Hopper explained.
And so did Caleigh.
“Just to have someone looking up to you. To know at the end of the day they got you. And just once again, that’s my 'why.' That’s why I do what I do and it’s just going to keep me going forever,” he explained.
But Caleigh isn’t his only why. As the young father tries to be there for his daughter, he’s always working hard to make his own dad proud in a place where happiness is hard to come by.
“Being incarcerated, he doesn’t get much job,” Hopper said.
On March 12, Hopper talked to his father one last time before he got the chance to work out for over two dozen scouts at Clemson on Wednesday. His father reminded him, this was just the beginning of his journey.
“That time away, it just let me know this is what I need to be doing, and not to take anything for granted,” Hopper explained.
Now that he’s found his why, the only question left for him to answer is why not.