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Q&A with Tyrone Hopper, uncle of Mizzou linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper

I was able to chat with Tyrone about his nephew’s time in Columbia, what it was like raising four boys who all played football and his thoughts on the 2023 Missouri team.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Vanderbilt Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoppers are a football family through and through.

Tiger fans know Ty’Ron, a former Florida Gator who led Mizzou in tackles for loss last season and has been a high-level player on the Tiger defense for two years now. He moved to live with his uncle Tyrone Hopper and his sons in high school and played football at Roswell, a suburb just outside of Atlanta. (Side note: Mizzou safety Jospeh Charleston played for Roswell’s arch rival Milton, and he and Ty’Ron worked out together in high school.)

His cousin Tyrone, the oldest of three who has the same name as his father, transferred from North Carolina to join the Tigers in 2022. He recorded six tackles as a defensive lineman during that season and is now a graduate assistant with the Arkansas football team.

Tyneil Hopper, the middle child, is a sixth-year grad transfer tight end at Michigan State. He began his career with Boise State and has 283 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns to his name. Tyneil unfortunately suffered a broken leg in the Spartans’ game against Washington earlier this season, but he will likely pursue a medical redshirt.

And, last but certainly not least is Tyjai, a 3-star safety out of Alpharetta, Ga. in the class of 2024. He holds offers from Mizzou, Boise State, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Purdue and others. (Side note: Current Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Joshua Dobbs also played at Alpharetta).

Thus, Tyrone has the unique and difficult task of keeping track of all of his boys’ athletics while also managing his own business, Hoppers Cutz and Styles in Alpharetta. He took some time out of his day to speak with me about the impact Columbia has had on Ty’Ron, what it was like to raise four football players who all have D-I aspirations and his thoughts on the success of the 2023 Missouri team.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Q: How have you seen Ty’Ron grow during his time with Mizzou both on and off the field, and what do you think the future holds for him?

A: “He did take a huge step, last year and this year. I saw it in him, on and off the field with maturity, leadership. You know, I think being the team captain this year was huge. Because, that’s something he doesn’t talk much about, but I know that’s something that means a lot to him because he wants to earn the trust of his teammates.”

“He can really do whatever he wants because he is going to do whatever he has to do to get anything he wants. He’s never been a lazy guy, he always wants to work on himself. He’s a very disciplined person.”

Q: What’s your communication with Ty’Ron and your sons like on a week-to-week basis and how do you manage to keep tabs on all of their athletics?

A: “It requires a lot. When it comes to my nephew, he’s a little different. Because, I only talk to him once or twice a week. And when I talk to him, we can be on the phone for an hour and a half or two hours, but whatever we need to talk about we can get all in one conversation, and so we just stay on the phone late at night. He’s opened up somewhat, but being that I know him I kind of know exactly what to ask him if I feel like something’s bothering him. Because, he’s not going to open up a whole lot about everything.”

“All of them are different. He’s [Tyneil] more of a talker. He talks a lot so we communicate well. The only thing about him is he thinks he knows what I’m thinking, so I have to kind of be on my toes when I’m talking to him, but he’s a really good kid.”

“He [Tyrone] coaches in Arkansas, but he even though he’s not a kid, he’s still my son. So when it comes to that, it’s all about guidance. He asks me questions cause he’s still a young kid, so he’s trying to figure out different things now. He makes his own decisions, but there’s a lot of stuff that he asks me because he feels like I’m familiar with some of the stuff that he’s actually going through. I’ve been to see him coaching at the Alabama game, and just to see that was a different feeling from watching him play, being there to watch him coach. It’s almost like the ‘Hey, that’s my son. He grew up now. He’s a man now.’”

“Then the thing with him [Tyjai] is he’s alone. It’s just me and my wife, all the other boys had each other and so they could talk to each other. So with him, he has his friends but he talks to me as a man, so we have a lot of conversations about a lot of different things.”

“So I basically have to have a way to think on a different level for my 25-year-old, my 24-year-old and, Ty’Ron and my youngest son. I have to be able to do all of that and it definitely is a lot because whatever they’re going through, if there’s something that’s really bothering them, me and my wife have to be the ones that make sure that everything is working the way it’s supposed to work and to kind of keep them locked in and focused and doing the things they’re supposed to do.”

Q: What was it like raising four boys that all had aspirations to play sports at a high level?

A: “I’ll tell you this, they all are very similar. Every single one of them is competitive. None of them are soft. Everybody is competitive, even to this day. It’s so crazy. Like if they all came home right now, you know what we’re gonna do? We’re gonna go to the basketball court and we are talking junk and all five of us are debating about who’s the best shooter in the house.”

(Tyrone did say that he was the best shooter on the court, although Tyjai, Tyneil and Ty’Ron give him a run for his money at times.)

“Naturally, the house was competitive, and everybody wanted to win. But I wanted to make sure that it was fun versus somebody getting upset and not wanting to do something because of it. The support is crazy when it comes to the way they are with each other. Anytime something is going on with Tyjai and he gets an offer, they all call in and they all talk to him and congratulate.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the transfer portal and how it’s benefitted your boys?

A: “It’s benefitted a lot of kids and it has benefitted a lot of schools. Also, it’s hurt some kids and hurt some schools. I think that I like the transfer portal because it gives options, but the way it’s lined up now with the transfer portal, recruitment for high school, and NIL, a lot of stuff is just changing the whole game of football. Not in a bad way, it’s just different. When my kids went in the portal, I let them make the decision. I told them about the good and the bad of it, and they made a decision on it.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the success of the 2023 Missouri football team?

A: “I was one of probably the few people that looked at the schedule and felt like we could be in this position or even in a better position. When I looked at the schedule and how it was set up, and I looked at what we had coming back on defense, the changes that were happening on offense, and when you look at what we did last year, everything was getting better. Nothing was going down.”

“My son [Tyrone] played at that spot, and so I did have questions about the defensive ends. That’s the part that I was curious about, but Tyrone told me something. He said ‘Hey dad, Johnny [Walker Jr.] is a guy, watch out for Johnny.’ And everything he said about him was so true. And then they moved Darius Robinson over from defensive tackle. I felt like that was a great move because when I first met D-Rob, he was the one of the guys that hosted us on official visits. But, I looked at him and thought he was an end, but he said he was on the inside.”

“So when I looked at the season, beforehand, I was like ‘You know what? I think we’ll be undefeated going to play LSU, and let’s see how it goes.’ And I’ve got a nephew that’s contributing to it and I’m happy for some of the coaches that I know, too. I think the coaches did a really, really good job of keeping guys for another year and had a vision of what they were going to do and how they were gonna do it. These players got together, and a lot of these guys could have went to the NFL last year, but they chose to come back for another year because they wanted to leave on a different note.“

Q: Take me through your Hoppers Cutz and Styles business and what it has been like to run that place for so long?

A: “I actually opened up my first barber shop when I was 24 years old in North Carolina. Somebody bought the building and everybody had to leave, so I moved to Georgia. I worked in a shop here called Goodfellas for five years and then I opened up my own shop in 2011 here in Alpharetta, Ga.”

“It’s been really good. It’s seven of us working in me, my wife and five other barbers. We’re in an area where people appreciate your haircuts, they take care of you and it’s just a really good atmosphere. The boys won’t go anywhere else, they all get their hair cut by me. A lot of college coaches, too, when they are in town for recruiting, they’ll come by and get a haircut because Alpharetta High School is right up the street.”