DeAndre Hopkins wants to be the face of the Houston Texans offense.
On Thursday the Texans made sure that he’ll be that for years to come when they agreed a five-year, $81 million contract extension with the receiver.
“It means a lot to me because this city has done so much for me and my family,” Hopkins told The Associated Press. “It’s always been open arms and support through the good times and the bad times.”
The deal, which includes $49 million guaranteed, comes as the star receiver was entering the last year of his contract.
Hopkins was the 27th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He has piled up 4,487 yards receiving in his first four seasons, including a career-high 1,521 in 2015 despite playing with a revolving door of quarterbacks. He’s started every game in his career and finished with 78 receptions for 954 yards last season.
Hopkins spent his first two seasons playing in the shadow of franchise receiving leader Andre Johnson. When Johnson was released after the after the 2014 season, Hopkins knew it was time for him to step up.
“Once Andre Johnson left I knew this offense was going to be on my back and I accepted that with open arms,” Hopkins said. “Just to be part of this offense right now and what we’re doing and the guys we’re drafting are a bunch of young guys that are coming in here hungry. And just to be a part of that and to be the leader to me is special.”
After learning from Johnson early in his career, Hopkins is prepared to lead this offense and doesn’t shy away from the expectations attached to signing such a huge contract.
“To see these guys grow that are younger than me that are going to help us get where we are and just being able to mentor them every day is going to be awesome,” he said. “I know the team we have, everybody knows the team we have and to be that piece and to have that pressure on me, it’s not really pressure because I’ve been in situations before where I’ve been that guy and I like it honestly.”
The 25-year-old has 23 receiving touchdowns in his career and will be the centerpiece of an offense that is looking to bounce back after a tough 2016 season with Brock Osweiler at quarterback.
The production of Hopkins has been impressive considering the team’s longtime woes at quarterback. The Texans, who have started eight quarterbacks since Hopkins was drafted, thought they’d solved their problems at the position when they signed Osweiler to a $72 million contract before last season.
Instead he was benched late in the season and shipped to Cleveland in the offseason, leaving Tom Savage, who has never thrown a touchdown pass, as the starter.
Houston selected Clemson star Deshaun Watson in the first round of this year’s draft, but it looks as if Hopkins won’t be catching passes from him anytime soon with coach Bill O’Briensticking with Savage as his starter throughout camp.
The deal will keep Hopkins with the Texans through the 2022 season.
When the deal was done, Hopkins couldn’t wait to call and share the news with his mother Sabrina Greenlee. He thought she might scream or freak out, but that didn’t happen.
“She was calm,” he said. “She was the same person that she was before I told her any kind of news and I think that’s why I’m humble as I am because the way she reacts to things like that. She wasn’t overly excited. But of course she was excited because this is something that’s going to change our family’s history.”
And after she had a moment to let the news that her son was now one of the NFL’s highest paid receivers sink in, she did what she often does when Hopkins calls her.
“We said a prayer,” he said. “She made sure she said a prayer to me on the phone and that’s what it was.”