During any Canisius High School football game, Bryce Hopkins is one of the coaches on the sideline, yelling and motioning and motivating, living and dying with each play. He's especially involved when it's any kind of a kick, because as the specialists coach he's been working with players all week at practice on those kind of plays.
When the game is over, he shifts from coach to statistician, getting the box score straight along with who had all the key stats, and then he notifies the media personally or on the phone. Around the same time he starts to send word of how Canisius' game went via the Twitter account he started, @CanisiusHSFB.
On Sunday, he puts together a detailed postgame report to send it off to the media. He is part of the coaches film session as they begin to look towards next week, and so does he. Along with assisting with game-planning, he's gathering information on the next opponent so he can put together pregame notes for the media, as it all starts all over again.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Western New York who contribute their time and effort in some way to support high school sports, and to make that experience special for everyone involved.
Hopkins, driven by a love for his school and for the sport he had to give up playing, has taken things to another level. His game notes are comparable with those prepared by college sports information offices. When I and other media walked into the All High Stadium press box for Canisius' game with McKinley two weeks ago, we were greeted by copies of the 44-page media guide Hopkins spent his summer putting together.
I have been telling Hopkins this ever since he started sending information out and greeting me with stats after Canisius games the last few years: If there was a Bryce Hopkins at every school, it would make my job 1,000 times easier. But this isn't about me - this is about getting the names in the paper, on television, on radio, on web sites. The easier the information gets to us, the easier it is to get worthy names in the paper, which is probably about 90 percent of what high school sports coverage is all about.
"Anything I'm doing is just to help these kids who work so hard in the classroom and on the field, and if I can do small part to help them out to get recognition in those areas, that's enough reward for me," said Hopkins, a 2008 graduate of Canisius High and a 2012 grad of Canisius College. "Canisius was instrumental to my development as a person, and football was most instrumental, so I wanted to do what I could to stay involved."
"He's in on the offensive and defensive meetings, he's a smart guy," Canisius head coach Rich Robbins said.
Hopkins' additional duties are also a tremendous help for Robbins.
"As I became a head coach I realized all of the responsibilities you have, not just X's and O's," he said. "He makes my job easier. . I keep telling the principal, moving forward we've got to find a job for this guy. He's a great part of the program."
How does he find the time? Well, Hopkins has literally given this year to his alma mater. As part of the school's Alumni Volunteer Corps program, he is spending this academic year living at the school; basic utilities are paid for and he receives a modest stipend while assisting the school in various ways.
It's allowed him to do the research that helped him create the media guide from scratch (it includes extensive information on last year's team, this year's opponents as well as photos not only of all of the players on this year's team but of past teams dating back to 1900) and also to work on other projects. Next up is a soon-to-be-released iPhone application for Canisius athletics which he has worked with others at the school to develop.
As Canisius prepared to play Walsh Jesuit last week, the coaches looked over a roster typical of many football-crazed Ohio schools: There were 86 players on it (Canisius has 56), and at the bottom there were not only 16 coaches, but about 10 additional staff members under headings like statisticians, film and software.
Another member of Canisius' staff marveled: "They have like 10 Bryces."
After the game in Ohio, a 14-7 win for Canisius, Hopkins spent the briefest of moments in a postgame celebration, but he soon was going right back to work. While players hit the locker room and then loaded the bus, Hopkins was furiously tapping his iPhone - in between some parents stopping by with a "nice game, coach" - to total up stats and get them on Twitter. On the bus it was time to make phone calls.
"I'm juggling half dozen things," said Hopkins, "so usually I'll celebrate the victory a couple of hours after the game."
Around the halls
. Canisius coach Robbins on the atmosphere of playing a game in Ohio: "It was $8 a ticket, with 3,000 or 4,000 people, cheerleaders, a band, the whole thing. Walsh has a Florida State look, and they're the Warriors, so the band and the PA had the Florida State chant going the whole time."
. I'll have a live chat Thursday evening to talk about Week Five's big lineup as well as anything else in the world of high school sports.