BANNER ELK — Dr. Larry Hopkins, superlative fullback for the Lees-McRae College Bobcats, passed away on Nov. 10, 2020. The former Bobcat, Wake Forest University football star and doctor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center was 70 and suffered from a stroke.
A once tranquil mountain community located in northwestern North Carolina emerged as the resort mecca of the Southeast. The ski team collected accolades by winning the national ski title (NJCAA) held on Beech Mountain in 1970. The same year the Coastal Football Conference was formed with teams from Delaware, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The Bobcats were ranked in the top ten junior colleges in the NJCAA in 1969 and 1970. Hopkins played in the El Toro Bowl in Yuma, Arizona. The Bobcats lost a hard-fought battle against Arizona Western. In 1970 Arthur Morrison, offensive guard, opened up gaping holes for Hopkins. Morrison was named NJCAA All-American First Team and signed with Mars Hill. The Bobcats were ranked 10th nationally by the NJCAA that year. Hopkins led Region 10 of NJCAA with more than 800 yards in 153 attempts and nine touchdowns.
In 1970 Hopkins was listed as a national rusher, conference leading rusher and scorer, back of the year and all-region. His freshman year he had a 4.0 average with subjects like English Lit, chemistry, calculus, trigonometry and biology.
An Asheville sportswriter said, “Hopkins was not a razzle-dazzle ball carrier or a broken field runner, he would have gained more yardage had he occasionally sidestepped an opponent; instead as a true fullback he would rather lower his head and bulldoze over a defender.” Against Evans College he rushed for 134 yards in four carries, scored on a 36-yard run and raced 79 yards for his second score. Coach George Litton mercifully negated Hopkins to the bench for the rest of the game. When the Bobcats went to Norfolk, Va., to meet the Apprentice in the Oyster Bowl Hopkins accounted for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
Hopkins transferred to Wake Forest, playing fullback in 1970-71 where he led the Deacons in rushing both years, broke Brian Piccolo’s rushing record and averaged 111.6 yards a game his senior year.
He earned his medical degree at Bowman Gray School of Medicine (now Wake Forest School of Medicine) in 1977. He became a well-known doctor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Winston-Salem area. He served on the boards of the WFU Trustees and Lees-McRae Trustees. Beth Hopkins, his wife who endeared Larry to the world with the affectionate name “Hoppy,” was 18 at Wake Forest in 1971 when she met Larry and they became close friends. Humble and gracious, he never wanted to draw attention to himself. He was quiet and low key, but he always had a presence. He was one of a kind the likes of which may never “pass this way again.”
Don Baker served as longtime Media and Sports Information Director/Athletic Director at Lees-McRae College. He and Coach George Litton were responsible for recruiting Hopkins.