Maddox Kopp was essentially born into competition.
Growing up with three older siblings who all went on to play college sports at the NCAA Division I level, that fire came naturally. Kopp has two older brothers – Anderson and Miller Kopp – playing Division I basketball at Lamar and Northwestern, respectively. His oldest brother, Braeden, recently graduated from Vanderbilt, where he was a tight end on the football team.
Maddox Kopp’s grandfather played quarterback at the University of Cincinnati, while his father was a tennis player at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“It’s where I found my competitive edge, playing in the driveway and front yard. We can’t play one-on-one anymore because it turns into a fight,” he said. “But we’ve been competing all our lives. That’s what shaped us into who we are today.”
The fire forged from those grudge matches has helped Kopp become the latest college athlete in his family. The St. Thomas High School senior announced Tuesday that he has committed to play quarterback for the University of Houston next fall.
Kopp selected UH among his 12 major-college offers. His other suitors included Colorado, Wyoming, Texas State, Central Michigan and the University of Mississippi, among others. According to a report from Sports Illustrated, Ole Miss and Houston were the two finalists to get the homegrown talent, who is 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds.
Oral commitments are non-binding until players sign national letters of intent.
“It’s so much about the opportunity (Houston) provided,” he said. “They’re only going in the right direction, and I feel like I can come in there and elevate the program and the school.”
And though he has parlayed his talent on the gridiron into the scholarship offer, Kopp noted that football was initially more of a hobby or second sport to play in the break from his first love – basketball.
As a youngster, Kopp traveled around the country playing the sport, and he also plays for St. Thomas’ basketball team. It wasn’t until around his sophomore year at St. Thomas when he truly fell in love with football, and he hasn’t looked back.
As a sophomore, Kopp appeared in just six games for the Eagles, throwing only 18 passes as the backup quarterback behind eventual University of Miami commit Peyton Matocha. But his coaches said the talent was never the question.
“He was quite capable. He just played behind (Matocha) and couldn’t get on the field much,” St. Thomas head coach Rich McGuire said. “His work ethic is so strong, that he just kept getting better. We knew he was going to be good, because he really just kept working. He’s one of the hardest-working young men you’ll ever find, one of the most mature young men you’ll ever find mentally.”
Soon after he took the reins of the St. Thomas offense during the 2019 season, that talent became evident to those outside the high school’s walls and the City of Houston. Kopp had a breakout junior season, throwing for 3,089 yards and 28 touchdowns while leading the Eagles to a 9-4 record and the TAPPS state semifinals.
That performance earned him a selection to the Elite 11 quarterback competition after the season. The Elite 11 has previously featured future NFL stars such as Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck and Kyler Murray.
“I just trusted the process, because I knew I had put the work in,” Kopp said of his improvement. “So the results were going to come. I have a lot to learn, and I’m still learning – every day and every game.”
In staying close to home to begin his college football career, Kopp cited Houston’s recent track record of getting quarterbacks to the NFL – such as recent draftees Kyle Allen and Greg Ward, Jr. – as well as the opportunity to compete for a job early on in his career.
And having the chance to do so in his hometown, barely six miles from where he now straps on the pads, would just be a bonus.
“Leading a team in my hometown would mean the world, being able to play in front of my friends and family. My goal is to create a program that can’t be stopped,” he said. “It means a lot to be able to play in my hometown, and just put on for the city.”
First, however, he’s got a senior season to focus on.
Per TAPPS guidelines, Kopp and the Eagles are set to hit the practice field on Monday in preparation for their first game, which is scheduled for Sept. 25 against El Campo. Over the past several months, McGuire said the team has been conducting socially distanced workouts in efforts in preparation for the season as they look to build on last season’s state semifinal trip.
Part of the season’s challenges will surely include replacing defensive standouts Cooper Thomas and Daniel Coco, who the Eagles recently lost to graduation. But even more so, McGuire said the most important aspect will be taking continued heed of social distancing protocols, so that this year’s 27 seniors can play out their final high school season.
“It’s the largest senior classes we’ve had in a long time, and they’re anxious to go out and try to win some football games,” he said. “You can’t do that if you’re not out there, so you’ve got to do what you’re supposed to.”
In addition to social distancing on the sidelines, McGuire said St. Thomas players have been provided face coverings at every workout, which they are required to wear if not actively participating in the play.
“They’ve got to take care of themselves when they’re not (on the football field),” he said. “As much you say teams can beat themselves, that’s the easiest way to beat yourself this year.”
As much as the team looks to Kopp for his on-field performance, McGuire said the mental aspect of the game and his leadership will shine even more as the team re-acclimates to game speed while continuing to adjust to the world of COVID-19.
By all appearances, Kopp is ready to lead the charge.
“During the quarantine, there weren’t any coaches or other coaches forcing you to work out – it was all on you,” he said. “We’re prepared, but we know it’s not going to be an easy road during the season. There are going to be bumps. But how we respond to that is really important.”