Added to the roster in Week 2 of the regular season, Dustin Hopkins provided the Redskins a consistent performer on field goals and a strong leg on kickoffs.
Finding his place in the NFL did not come easily for Dustin Hopkins.
After being selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills, Hopkins was ruled inactive for the first five games of his rookie season and then placed on Injured Reserve, missing the rest of the year with a groin injury.
After the kicker from Florida State spent the next offseason between the Bills and New Orleans Saints, he became a free agent, open for the taking.
Just nine short days later, the Redskins called him. Fast forward an NFL season and Hopkins not only started 15 games, but was also named the Redskins' 2015 Mark Moseley Special Team Player of the Year at the 55th annual Welcome Home Luncheon on Wednesday.
It might have taken some time, but Hopkins seems to be grooving in the NFL. He won the award after a solid season, despite being forced to adapt to his new surroundings. Moseley presented the award for Hopkins.
Hopkins replaced Kai Forbath, who was released after missing a 46-yard field goal in the opening week following a tough preseason. But the replacement was not going to be easy to live up to, as Forbath ended his time in Washington with an 87 percent field goal percentage, the best in team history.
Hopkins' performance for the remainder of the season, however, left no doubt in anyone's mind that he had finally found a place to show off what he can do.
"(Hopkins) did an outstanding job coming in, great pop on the football, excellent leg strength which was demonstrated in the way he kicked the football off and made some key kicks throughout the course of the year," special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica said. "He's a good young kicker, I think he's got a lot of upside, area to improve."
Check out the top photos of Dustin Hopkins from the 2015 season.
Hopkins finished the season with an 89.3 kicking percentage, making 25-of-28 kicks. He was also almost perfect on extra points, converting 39-of-40. Part of last season's extra challenge for kickers was that extra points started being tried from the 15-yard line, moved from the two-yard line.
"He probably has the strongest leg I've ever seen in a kicker," punter Tress Way said. "Then just to see him – he's a perfectionist which I'm sure you want in any kind of specialist, but seeing him in practice or in warmups – if he pushes one wide right, he immediately knows what did wrong and, boom, corrects it."
His ability to immediately become comfortable with the team despite coming in mid-season was remarkable to see. His performance on the field also lived up to everything the Redskins hoped. He also found a great amount of success starting teams off deep on kickoffs, easily booting the ball out of the end zone on a regular basis.
"He's got a powerful leg and one of the reasons he's here is because of his leg strength and kicking the ball off through the end zone," head coach Jay Gruden said. "But he can get the height and pin people back to the one if we get them tackled inside the 20."
For Hopkins, doing his job consistently has often involved not hearing much feedback from coaches. But unlike many players, that's how he knows he is doing well.
"When, you don't hear something as a specialist that's usually a good thing," Hopkins said with a smile.