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Texans Hopkins deserves mention among top receivers

HOUSTON -- Inspiration was in abundant supply for Houston Texans Pro-Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and he did not waste the opportunity to secure the stage and embrace the spotlight.

On a Sunday when his mentor, Andre Johnson, became the inaugural inductee into the Texans' Ring of Honor, Hopkins waged a spirited battle against one of the more respected cornerbacks in the NFL, Arizona Cardinals three-time All-Pro Patrick Peterson. He did so with another surefire Hall of Famer, Cardinals veteran Larry Fitzgerald, climbing a rung on the career receiving yards list.

Hopkins produced with Houston missing its top deep threat, Will Fuller V, who was sidelined by an injury to his ribs.

It was not just another Sunday at the office for Hopkins, whose four receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown were embellished by a couple near catches that were rave worthy. In a league flush with top-flight receivers, Hopkins proved again that his name belongs in the conversation.

"It's a tribute to Andre," Fitzgerald said of the words he exchanged with Hopkins following the Texans' 31-21 win over Arizona at NRG Stadium. "He did a great job of mentoring Hopkins and now you see how he's one of the top guys in the game. He's a special, special talent. He's got a knack for making those tough catches week in and week out. And, I really enjoy watching him.

"I have followed him since he was at Clemson, and to see him continue to get better is great."

Hopkins has always heaped praise on Johnson, who played alongside Hopkins for the 2013-14 seasons. As Hopkins began his ascension, recording 128 receptions for 2,012 yards and eight touchdowns, Johnson was in the twilight of his extraordinary 12-year career in Houston. During their time together, Hopkins gleaned all he could from Johnson, and when Johnson was honored by the organization on Sunday, Hopkins was there to produce his fair share of admiration.

"Andre is always inspiring," said Hopkins, whose nine receiving touchdowns lead the NFL. "Just his presence, being out there before the game, not just today but earlier games. For him to have this day, it definitely brought a spark to some people."

Hopkins was clearly motivated with Johnson and Fitzgerald, two standard bearers, in the building and Peterson lined up in direct opposition. After lavishing praise and respect on two receivers who laid the foundation for his development, Hopkins honored Peterson, too.

"If I could play against him every Sunday," Hopkins said, "I would."