From an unprecedented lockdown to a promising liftoff.
Maddox Kopp ‘21 gained valuable momentum in the 2020 recruiting cycle significantly restricted by the pandemic. The first St. Thomas scholar-athlete to receive a coveted invitation to the Elite 11 Finals seized the opportunity to enhance his profile by favorably competing among 20 top-rated high school performers in the nation’s premier quarterback camp.
“It was a dream come true,” Kopp says of the three-day showcase in Nashville. “As a little kid I would watch all the videos on ESPN and wanted to be a part of it when I grew older. It was a great honor but I wanted to prove that I belonged. I challenged the best in the country and showed that I could execute and also think the game on and off the field.”
The athletic 6-5 200-pound Kopp immediately broke from the pack when he out-dueled a series of renowned five-star phenoms to earn individual honors on the first night of the camp. By the end of the event, he quickly received his first Power 5 offer from Ole Miss. Less than two weeks later, Kopp added Colorado to the list of suitors that included Houston, Tulane, Wyoming, Texas State among others.
By August, Kopp was one of the nation’s top undeclared talents gripping the game’s most exacting position. On September 1, he capped his rapid rise with a verbal commitment to the Houston Cougars in front of family, teammates, and supporters on the St. Thomas campus.
Kopp emerged from an original Elite 11 prospect list of roughly 100 candidates. He sealed his inclusion through an application and scripted video workout after the regional qualifying camps were shuttered and shattered under the hammer of the coronavirus. Kopp then confirmed at the camp a clean, consistent, and repeatable throwing motion, delivering catchable throws in every setting, plus an approach to the position that signals significant potential.
“It was a great opportunity for Maddox to compete at a level that honestly few people expected him to reach,” head coach Rich McGuire says. “He told me that when he was in the eighth grade that he put an Elite 11 poster on his wall, hoping he would have a chance to make it. There he was after three years of intense work.”
In his first starting season, Kopp orchestrated Eagle Football to a resurgent 9-4 record and the 2019 TAPPS Division I state semifinals. He was named second-team all-state after throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, sharing much of that production with dynamic receivers Cameron Bonner ‘21 (more than two dozen Power 5 offers) and Drake Martinez ‘21 (Colorado St. verbal).
Kopp arrived at Elite 11 with far less hype than the more celebrated quarterbacks in attendance, most of whom had cashed haughty individual rankings and rich reputations into a wide variety of verbal commitments to the most storied and valuable programs from coast to coast.
Kopp is a two-sport scholar-athlete who hasn’t taken the typical Generation Z route to acclaim. His previous springs and summers were often dedicated to AAU hoop circuits rather than the Quarterback Industrial Complex featuring personal instruction, daily dealings of two-deep coverage on YouTube, and high-level 7-on-7 leagues. His force on the recruiting circuit was stifled through the COVIDsphere and all the White House briefings and the Dr. Fauci updates.
McGuire believes the Elite 11 exposure revealed Kopp’s superior ability to control the team, read the defense, know the play, and what option maximizes the play. “Maddox has the arm strength, the frame, the footwork. He attacked the playbook and had it down as fast as anyone there because that’s who he is. He’s a natural leader. He galvanized the huddle, built a bond with his teammates, and they pushed each other to be the best every day.”
Offensive assistant Matt Hudson is in his fourth season with Eagle Football and has seen Kopp mature mightily since his initial days on campus. “The Elite 11 invitation didn’t surprise me at all. He absolutely belonged. He’s got all the physical tools. I told him and will continue to reinforce, don’t play the comparison game. You saw some guys who were better than you in some ways. And you were better in some other aspects. Just stay true to who you are. And for Maddox, that’s a smart, even keel operator, always in command. He knows plenty of football and is hungry to learn so much more.”
Hudson relates to the prestige and allure of Friday Night Lights. He led Jackson Christian in Jackson, Tennessee to the 2006 Class A state championship as a junior, the only title in the city’s history, and then signed with Central Arkansas.
Much of Hudson’s tutorial with Kopp is rooted in the experience developing alongside his father. Doug Hudson was the career passing leader at Nicholls State University for more than thirty years with 7,670 yards until the mark was broken in 2018. He was selected in the seventh round of the 1987 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
When college football power brokers quizzed Matt on Maddox, the reply was swift and relevant. “They weren’t interested if he didn’t have all the measurables so that was a given. I told coaches that Maddox brings the absolute highest character who will represent your program well, regardless of how the playing time shakes out. Second, he’s a fast learner and makes everyone around him better. The epitome of the position is not how good is the player, it’s how far he can propel those around him. Maddox has that contagious quality that breeds team success.”
Kopp quarterbacks with a commanding calm in the tsunami storm of defensive duress. His bloodlines and gut-burn-to-be-great moxy project encouraging outcomes. Three brothers extended their scholar-athlete careers to the Division I level. Anderson ‘19 was the leading force and scorer for Eagle Basketball while leading St. Thomas to the 2019 TAPPS 6A regional finals. He made an immediate impact at Lamar University where he was named Male Freshman of the Year. Miller was the leading scorer as a sophomore for Northwestern basketball in 2020. Braden Kopp played tight end at Vanderbilt where he was a three-time All-SEC Academic Honor Roll member.
— Dave Campbell's Texas Football — TexasFootball.com (@dctf) July 2, 2020
Kopp joined a deep Elite 11 legacy that counts alumni such as Houston natives Andrew Luck and Vince Young plus Texan supreme Deshaun Watson. Twelve of the previous 13 quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy and 15 of the top 20 NFL passers in 2019 attended the Elite 11 Finals or an Elite 11 Regional.
Eagle Fight Never Dies!