By Paul Gallant, SportsRadio 610By Paul Gallant

HOUSTON (SPORTSRADIO 610) Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been making a strong case for himself as the NFL’s best wide receiver. Between his stats this season (58 catches for 803 yards and 8 TDs, ranking 5th, 2nd, and 1st respectively) and his performance in the Texans 31 – 21 win over the Cardinals (4 catches, 76 yards and a TD), the film and numbers are impressive.

“Great player. He’s our go-to guy,” said Texans head coach Bill O’Brien of Hopkins. “That’s obvious, and I thought a couple of those catches that were not catches were close. People really focus on him. They really do. Not only defenses, but – I’m not going to go down the road of everyone that focuses on him, but he’s really focused upon, whether it’s for penalties or defenses putting coverage toward him. He overcomes a lot. He’s a great player.”

Hopkins’ footwork on the sidelines was probably the most impressive part of his performance Sunday. I asked Tom Savage after the game if he ever found himself in awe of the 5th year receiver.

“At this point, I almost give him crap when he doesn’t, when two feet are out,” said Texans quarterback Tom Savage. “I’m like what are you doing? You have to catch that. He is incredible. He is the best receiver in the league.”

I asked Hopkins what it meant to hear Savage say he’s the league’s best.

“I know I’m the best, so it doesn’t really mean anything to me but to keep working hard,” answered Hopkins matter of factly.

If you’re familiar with Hopkins, that confidence isn’t surprising. It’s also warranted. Passes that look like they’ll end up 5 yards out of bounds are often routine catches for the 2015 2nd team All Pro and Pro Bowler.

“You know, I thought about going to ballerina school before this year,” said Hopkins. “But no, it’s not easy going out there and elevating, catching the ball, looking down where you are at the same time. But I definitely think I’m the best toe-tap guy in the NFL.”

During his press conference, Bill O’Brien pointed out that Hopkins has been getting a lot of extra attention this season, both from defenders and referees (for offensive pass interference penalties). I asked DeAndre if he felt that extra attention too.

“Of course. Of course,” answered Hopkins. “I definitely feel the attention. I don’t think like three-fourths of the calls on me are offensive P.I.s. I think they look for it. So, it kind of sucks when they look for it. You know, when it’s not a penalty it’s like they are over forcing it. Like I got a call on this guy. I remember one play a couple games ago, I got a call on me and the guy wasn’t even looking at me. The ref wasn’t even looking at me. After I watched film, it was after the play and he saw this guy like five yards away from me and was like, ‘Oh, let me call it because of separation’. So, it’s definitely a lot of stuff that I don’t agree on, but it’s football man.”

REAL RECOGNIZING REAL

Hopkins had an extended conversation with Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Famer. Both spoke about it afterwards.

“Lot of respect. Lot of respect,” said Hopkins when asked about the conversation. “Last year, when I held out however long that was, for a day or two, 48 or 47 hours, he called me during that process, and he was just like, ‘Your time is going to come. You’re one of the best receivers I’ve seen play this game.’ Even in college, he watched me, that’s what he told me last year or the year before. He’s always respected my game. Of course everybody in the league respects his game. He’s been like a mentor to me since I’ve been in the NFL. I didn’t know that he watched me while I was at Clemson. The words after the game were just keep going, keep striving to be the best.”

“It was a tribute to Andre (Johnson),” said Fitzgerald of the talk. “He did a great job of mentoring (DeAndre) 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. Our league is in a wonderful position with the young talent we have at that position.”

Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” – Tuesday 9-11 PM CT, Wednesdays and Fridays 8-11 PM CT – on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57. Get in touch with Paul via email or his facebook page.

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