The Pony Express of the early eighties has always been touted as being an offensive powerhouse, but opponents quickly learned that those teams had some of the toughest defenses in the country as well. One of the stars of those defenses was a former walk-on defensive back from Alabama named Wes Hopkins. Hopkins played a vital role in SMU's back-to-back SWC titles in 1981 and 1982. One performance in particular during that great run took place in the Astrodome against Houston in 1981. On October 17, 1981, Hopkins picked off four Cougar passes for one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
Hopkins wasn't recruited out of high school because of injuries that limited his senior playing time to the final four games of the season. He was planning to stay in Alabama for school until his uncle who lived in Dallas suggested that he consider trying out for SMU. Hopkins decided to walk-on Coach Ron Meyer's very young Pony Express team. Fortunately, Hopkins' mother could afford the $7,500 tuition for his first semester at SMU and equally fortunately for her, it took only a semester for Hopkins to win a scholarship. Hopkins was a major part of the tough Mustang defenses of the early eighties and finally caught the national spotlight in his junior season with his break out performance at Houston.
Houston quarterback Lionel Wilson was in for a long day. Hopkins started the larceny in the first quarter by intercepting a Wilson bomb attempt deep in SMU territory. Hopkins, once again, thwarted a Cougar scoring opportunity by making a diving intercepting at the SMU 11-yard line midway through the third quarter. Hopkins day would get even sweeter as he helped the offense out by picking off a pass and returning it 66 yards for a touchdown with two and half minutes left in the game. Hopkins capped off the day by intercepting his fourth pass with less than a minute remaining. His four interceptions tied the school record set by John Hughes in 1962.
SMU defeated Houston 38-22 en route to a 10-1 record and the SWC crown. During his career on the Hilltop, Hopkins was a two-time All-SWC selection (1981-82). He led the SWC with six interceptions his senior year, and finished SMU's career leader in interception return yards (231). Hopkins went on to have a successful career in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1983-1993. His record tying performance with four interceptions against Houston in 1981 will always be remembered as one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.