An ebullient superstar who represented what was great about female football in Seattle; Jessica Hopkins constantly delivered an all-out effort that set the gold standard among her peers and rivals alike. Throughout the seasons, she not only represented an admirable consistency, her strong attachment and loyalty to the Seattle Mist embodied the teams vision and culture.
Hopkins gripping gridiron saga finds its roots in humble beginnings. Qualifying for the Mists inaugural roster in 2009 as a 30-year old rookie, she seized the opportunity, providing simultaneously a positive yet inspiring impact, as every subsequent season supplied a restorative power.
Throughout Hopkins distinguished career, there has always been a remarkable flow to her game. Constantly exerting her greatest effort, committed towards peak performance, while pushing others in challenging ways with her solid work ethic.
Along with Monique Gaxiola, the first member of the Legends Football Leagues Hall of Fame, they are the only competitors from the 2010 campaign to have still competed in 2017. Each set a record with their respective franchises (Gaxiola with the Mists eternal rival, the Los Angeles Temptation) as the first to don their colors for at least seven seasons.
Although Hopkins was first involved with the Mist during the 2009 season (which sees players from that time known affectionately as the 09ers), she was classified as a member of the practice squad. While Hopkins still deserves to be considered an 09er, there is no question as to the respect she commands from her peers. Through social media, several other 09ers have shown their kind support for Hopkins, acknowledging her great contributions to the game, while celebrating her efforts, testament to her impact as an icon.
Such an outpouring of support was attributed to the fact that the 2017 campaign signified the last in Hopkins career. While there is a tinge of sadness in the fact that this season was a farewell tour, one last treasured opportunity to appreciate an exceptional individual who represented the growing potential of women in football to gain their place in the spotlight as true sporting heroes, the game will be eternally greater for Hopkins having participated in it.
“It was very difficult to finally say with 100% certainty that it’s time to hang them up. I love this game so much and feel as though I just got started with it. At the same time, I’m content. My body has said ‘when’ and the timing could not be better with winning a second championship for Seattle.”
During the seasons, including a stint in 2012 with the British Columbia Angels in the only LFL Canada campaign, the love of the game never receded for Hopkins. Of note, the chance to play in BC would serve as an illuminating time. Capturing the first championship of her distinguished LFL career with the Angels, it would set the tone for a glorious second half to her career in Seattle.
Having played with Stevi The Bull Schnoor in BC, the lasting friendship that was formed would take on greater meaning in Seattle. Establishing herself as the greatest Canadian player to compete in LFL history, Schnoor was a key contributor towards the Mist capturing championships in both 2015 and 2017. Along with Hopkins, this dazzling duo became the only women to have captured LFL championships in both Canada and the United States.
The road to the 2017 Legends Cup championship was one that saw social media an essential vehicle, allowing fans a profound sense of connection in the twilight of Hopkins journey. Holding an emotional stake in this rich and unfolding narrative, the outpouring of support by the fans added more than motivation for Hopkins, it represented a remarkable validation for almost a decade of sweat and sacrifice.
Adding luster to such a spectacular season was the fact that the Mist never lost a game. Enjoying an undefeated regular season that also saw the Mist scored a franchise record 106 points in a defeat of the Denver Dream, along with a sizzling 62-point performance against the Austin Acoustic.
Fellow veterans and friends, KK Matheny, Schnoor and Shea Norton delivered on all accounts. With the return of Katie Whelan, who is also a member of the United States Armed Forces, along with coveted free agents such as Michelle Angel, Nicole Peterson and Jade Randle, it was a remarkable assembly of talent that delivered on all accounts.
With Hopkins final regular season game taking place against the Austin Acoustic at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington, a venue that truly served as her second home for so many seasons, the outcome was a dazzling display of heart among all who donned the Mist colors on this defining day.
As special as the victory was, there was another unique element. Hopkins, who was the recipient of the leagues Mortaza Award in 2011, saw her career truly come full cirlce as the leagues commissioner in attendance, testament to her unforgettable impact,
“Anytime you get to play at home in front of your family, friends and YOUR fans; it’s special. Two games a year is not enough. Our fans are so supportive, I wish we could give them more home games.
Knowing it was my last game I’d ever play in the ShoWare Center in front of my family, friends and our amazing fans was very emotional for me. Every “last” was special and I really tried to soak up every single moment of that day and winning was just the icing on the cake.
I had no idea after the game that Mitch would take a moment to pay tribute to my time in Seattle, thinking about that moment still chokes me up. I was very honored to be recognized and appreciated for everything I have done over the years to help Seattle become one of the best organizations in the league. I am glad I had the opportunity to publicly thank my Coaches, teammates, the League staff and our incredible fans.”
As one of the signature franchises in the Legends Football League, the Seattle Mist are more than just a collection of superlative gridiron talent. It is a gathering of wondrous women whose heroics and impetus would help augment the franchises unfolding narrative.
In spite of her popularity, among fans and peers alike, Hopkins remained humble and devoted, her demeanor one of pure kindness and sincerity, constantly reinforcing her vigorous joie-de-vivre.
Holding a coveted place in Seattle sporting lore, the exceptional commitment that Hopkins displayed is one that was reciprocated by those who enjoyed the privilege of calling her a teammate. One of the most beloved player in the history of the Mist and the LFL, she is a portrait of integrity whose work ethic and devotion to peak performance was truly the gold standard among the leagues elites.
“I can only hope that over my tenure with the Seattle Mist that I was able to inspire someone along the way, able to help someone believe in themselves and their goals, whether I was able to make their day with a simple birthday wish or just responding to fans’ messages when they never thought I would answer.
I would hope that I’d be seen as a player that took time to interact with fans, was down to earth, always did things with the team and organization’s best interests in mind and carried myself in a classy and professional manner. I’d hope my teammates, fellow LFL athletes and coaches would remember me as a leader, someone who was always willing to help however I could and someone who was truly dedicated to my craft, my team and the league.”
Challenging the Atlanta Steam for the 2017 Legends Cup, history collided on numerous fronts. The championship game marked the first time that Steam quarterback, and All-Fantasy selection, Dakota Hughes played for a title, while the Mist became only the second Western Conference to appear in three consecutive championship games.
With Schnoor recording three touchdowns, emerging as the games Most Valuable Player, it not only allowed Hopkins the chance to walk away a winner, it represented redemption for the entire franchise. Having opposed the Chicago Bliss in the 2016 Legends Cup finals, a rematch of the previous years finals, which saw the Mist claim the Cup, the ambitions for back-to-back titles was not reached.
Refusing to end her career on such a sour note, Hopkins was determined to not endure the same outcome in 2017. Entering this season with a very strong sense of motivation, the opportunity to return to the championship game represented a chance for the storybook ended that eluded her following a hard-fought 2016.
“Winning the Championship and knowing that was the final game I would ever step on the field as a Seattle Mist player was for me; the best ending I could have ever imagined. I thought I was done playing after winning the Championship on our home field in 2015 so to come back the following year and make it all the way to the Legends Cup again; only to lose a close one to Chicago, was devastating.
I could not end my career on a loss and was determined to do whatever I could to help this team get back to the Cup and finish it the way we intended. Unfortunately, due to an injury 9 days prior to the championship I wasn’t able to play much but I had faith that my teammates would get the job done and they did. I couldn’t be more proud of how our team overcame so much adversity, crazy logistics, a pretty non-competitive regular season schedule and inconsistent practices.”
Testament to her team first approach, the championship victory meant so much more than just reaching a personal goal for Hopkins. It was the chance to share in the elation of a prominent milestone in any athletes career. With the Mist having acquired several free agent delays, including Michelle Angel, Nicole Peterson and Jade Randle from the now defunct Dallas Desire, it represented a triptych of talent who were hungry for championship glory.
In addition to the prized free agents, Hopkins was proud to see returning Mist players such as Shea Norton and Dominique Miloy, a former track and field star at the NCAA level, reach this elusive pinnacle. Taking into account that Norton, who was part of the first generation of Mist players (prior to the league not hosting games in 2012) was inactive for 2015, missing the chance to enjoy the teams first championship, the chance to share the glories of 2017 with Hopkins certainly encompassed a point of pride in franchise lore,
“It was very special and I am so glad that players like Shea Norton, Dom Miloy, Danielle Hawkins and Mini Angel were able to experience that first Championship feeling; being that they’ve played in this league for several years and have been working very hard towards experiencing that moment for a long time.”
While Hopkins will have to adapt to a new identity as a legend, the chronology of her career, her standing as a role model was established long ago, one that certainly served as a source of inspiration for all who held the privilege of calling her a teammate and/or friend.
Giving back to the community through her admirable efforts as an instructor, the legacy of Hopkins will continue to grow in stature, rather than dwindle. Having gained the chance to be an instructor at football camps run by Seattle Seahawks players, it represents how the sense of equality and unity is defining the future of the game. Undoubtedly, this is the type of forum worthy of the athletic gifts of such a gridiron goddess, being part of such tremendous events, simultaneously helping to encourage a new generation of football players to emulate her love of the game,
“Over the last summer I had the opportunity to help coach at several Seahawks player’s camps including Cassius Marsh (now in NE), Doug Baldwin’s family combine, Russell Wilson’s Passing Academy and Earl Thomas’ youth camp.
I look forward to every summer for the opportunity to give back to a sport that has given so much to me.
There’s so much more to football than just the game and I know that if kids give this game a try, they are going to learn so many valuable lessons that they’ll be able to apply to so many different situations throughout their life so to be able to share my knowledge and passion for this great game is very special to me.”
Undoubtedly, Hopkins presence as an instructor certainly holds the promise for a seamless transition to coaching, if it was an avenue of interest to pursue in the future. Currently, the conditions are such where the admiration of her undeniable qualities and sensational body of work, evoking very strong feelings of celebration, plus the influence of a completed but fascinating gridiron journey not yet fully absorbed.
With Hopkins time as a female football pioneer covering a complete spectrum, from international All-Star Games, becoming a gridiron hero on both sides of the border, plus the pinnacle of championships, her career certainly ran parallel to the games evolution. With a sincerity that served as an emotional companion for both fans and teammates, the longevity of Hopkins dutiful yet tremendous time with the Mist shall be reflected upon with romantic nostalgia. Perhaps more importantly, the nearly decade long run is one where she never lost her powerful presence.
Creating a buzz of anticipation during her farewell season, it was simultaneously the appreciation of a meaningful contribution to the games heritage, also helping bring about the realization of a determined yet dignified demeanor which helped to positive influence the games future. With the coveted chance to hoist the Legends Cup in her twilight shall represent a lasting image in both Mist and league lore, it was a fitting final chapter supplying Hopkins with monumental memories that shall span generations.
“There are so many things that I have enjoyed about playing for the Mist the last eight years, probably most is the relationships that have been built with my many teammates and coaches over the years.
I have essentially gained a whole new family that I will forever be close with and share so many memories with but just because my playing days are over; as are others or they soon will be, our memory making days are not over; they will just be different. I look forward to Seattle Mist reunions in the future, Turkey Bowls, Fantasy Football, watching NFL or college games together.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”