Hopkins goes from diamond to classroom
It's often said that when one door closes, another door opens up and that is exactly the case for one of Cornersville High School's most decorated athletes as Makenzie Hopkins finished up her senior season at Tennessee Wesleyan College this spring and will now embark on a career inside the classroom.
"My major is Elementary Education K-5 and I will begin my student teaching in the fall 2017," Hopkins said. "I have always wanted to be a teacher and I love to be around children and watch them grow."
Hopkins, a four-year starter on both the basketball and softball teams for the Lady Bulldogs, was a key component in helping Cornersville reach unprecedented heights in both sports before signing with Motlow State Community College in 2012.
Manning the point guard position from 09-12, Hopkins led the Lady Bulldogs to the programs first ever state tournament basketball appearance in 2009 before leading Cornersville to three straight district crowns from 2010-12 and picking up All-District 11A honors three times.
Hopkins’ bread and butter was on the diamond as the Lady Bulldogs finished third place in the state tournament twice while the shortstop earned all-district three times and All-MidState in 2011, putting her on the map for local recruiters.
A torn ACL prior to her final season led to only Wallace State Community College and Motlow State offering, but the Bucks reaped the benefits as the under-recruited senior chose the green and white and left southern Marshall County for a college career at Tullahoma.
"I have loved to represent my hometown (Cornersville)," Hopkins stated. "The people at Cornersville are amazing and are always willing to support."
"Most importantly, I want to represent my family and my sister," Hopkins continued. "I wanted to show my sister that dreams do come true if you follow them and work hard. My family is the reason I made it throughout college."
Hopkins did more than just represent Cornersville and the Hopkins name at Motlow, the true freshman shortstop excelled during her inaugural season with the Bucks, leading the team in hits (46), runs (26), doubles (8), and triples (2), while finishing second in games (42), at-bats (143), batting average (.343), and slugging percentage (.455).
Following such a successful opening campaign, the bar was set high for the Cornersville native's sophomore season and Hopkins did more than deliver by becoming a more powerful batter.
Hopkins led the Lady Bucks in home runs (4), batting average (.373), and slugging percentage (.528) and finishing second in doubles (10) and RBI (29,) leading to a scholarship offer from Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens.
"I had a few offers with other schools for softball, but once I got to Wesleyan on a tour it felt like home," Hopkins explained. "I never wanted to move far away from home and that school just looked and felt like home."
Hopkins continued to shine at Wesleyan, batting .313 in her first season, while knocking four home runs, 33 RBI, and a whopping 13 doubles to go with 36 hits.
The terrific junior season culminated with Hopkins being selected second-team All-Appalachian Athletic Conference, along with All-Academic honors. Hopkins also picked up the AAC Player of the Week award in the first week of March 2015 after batting .571 with 11 RBIs and leading Wesleyan to a 6-0 record for the week.
Hopkins hit a bump in the road during the beginning of her senior season, tearing an ACL just four games into the campaign on a routine fly ball into center field.
"My senior year at Wesleyan I tore my ACL," Hopkins recalled. "I was playing center field and the ball was hit into the gap, I turned to go get the ball and my knee just gave out."
"I immediately knew what was wrong because my senior year of high school I tore my right ACL," Hopkins added. "The rehab process was six months. I already knew the process and how hard I needed to work.”
“Just knowing that I only had one year left made me work even harder to finish."
After an intense off season of rehabilitation, Hopkins was granted a fifth year of eligibility and returned to the diamond one last time.
Hopkins bounced back to accumulate career highs at Wesleyan in at-bats, hits, triples, and stolen bases, while chipping in 12 RBIs and five doubles to lead the Bulldogs to a 23-16 record and finish up an extremely productive college softball career.
"I have really enjoyed my college experience," Hopkins said. "I have met some amazing people and have made some lifetime friends. Playing softball in college was the best choice I've made. Between Motlow and Wesleyan, the best memories were made on road trips and in the hotel. Those trips are what brought the team closer together."
And although hanging up the cleats for good competitively can be a bittersweet moment, Hopkins can find solace in the numerous young women and girls from her tiny southern Marshall County town that now look up to her as an inspiration and example of how dreams do come true through hard work and dedication to a game you love.
"I believe that the girls in Cornersville want to play college ball," Hopkins pointed out. "They are always wanting to put in the extra work and time. The coaches are always willing to help the girls and spend extra time."
"To the younger girls at Cornersville, follow your dreams and never give up! If you put in the work and time, you will play ball."