Alcornites pleased with hire

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alcorn State fans and alumni are pretty happy that Vicksburg native Jay Hopson is the Braves’ new football coach.

“Oh man, it’s wonderful,” said Johnny Reynolds, an alum who is a patient advocate administrator at River Region Medical Center, where Hopson’s father, Dr. Briggs Hopson Jr., has led the medical team for years. “He’ll do a fantastic job. What people at Alcorn State want is a winning team and Jay can do it.”

Reynolds also said Hopson will be instrumental in building a complete student-athlete.

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“I can say without doubt that Jay is all about academics,” Reynolds said. “He’s going to get those guys on the right track to be successful, not only on the field, but in the classroom and life.”

Hopson’s hiring was announced on Monday after a search process started in February after previous coach Melvin Spears was fired after a 2-8 season. He is the first white coach in the history of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

His contract is three years and he’ll be paid $150,000 per season.

Retired Vicksburg High football coach Alonzo Stevens, who played and coached at Alcorn State, was also excited that the former Warren Central and Ole Miss player has taken the reins.

“Jay is an organizer and it’s a great hire for Alcorn,” Stevens said. “Now it’s up to the university and the fans to stand behind him and have the patience for him to succeed.”

“This is a proud day for Alcorn State,” said Zelmarine Murphy, an alum who is president of the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees.

A passionate fan who says she has missed only one home game in 40 years, Murphy is known among the Alcorn crowd as “Mama Brave.”

“I’ve known Jay since he was a little boy. I’ve watched him grow up and now that’s he going to lead us, I’m just happy for him and Alcorn State,” she said. “He has my full support.”

One of Hopson’s biggest mentors in the coaching profession was his boss at Southern Miss, coach Jeff Bower. Bower said Tuesday that patience is a must and that Hopson has the experience to get the job done.

“Jay’s a good man, an excellent coach, and I think a great fit for them,” Bower said. “I know it’s a tough job and they will need to be patient with him. If they do, he can build a winning program.”

Hopson coached six years under Bower at Southern Miss and went 46-31 overall and 34-16 in Conference USA games in that span. The Golden Eagles had six straight winning seasons, went to six straight bowl games and won the 2003 Conference USA championship.

During his final three years there, Hopson was USM’s defensive coordinator.

“Jay is strong recruiter and the things we tried to do in terms of building a program’s structure were things I learned from Bobby Collins,” Bower said.

Collins coached USM from 1975 to 1982 before going to Southern Methodist and finishing with a career record of 91-44-3.

Michelle Hopson, Jay’s wife, is looking forward to coming home. In the past five years, she, Jay and their two children have lived in Hattiesburg, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Memphis.

“First thing I’ve got to do is sell our house in Memphis,” she said. “That’s the life of a coach.”