Lifelong friends close out collegiate careers

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 14, 2007

FRANKLIN—The Australian poet John Leonard once wrote, &uot;It takes a long time to grow an old friend.&uot; That definition describes Matt Hopkins and David Rabil, two Franklin natives who are about to enter a new phase in their friendship.

Hopkins and Rabil, who were college athletes at schools more than 200 miles apart, have been buddies since their grade-school days at S.P. Morton.

&uot;We both went to the same elementary school but didn’t have the same teachers,&uot; Hopkins said, recalling the early days. &uot;It was fourth and fifth grade when we really started clicking.&uot;

The two grew up together, sharing sports and music as hobbies.

&uot;We had a band together, actually,&uot; Hopkins said. &uot;It was called Two Lazy Bums and a Loser on the Drums. I was the loser that played the drums. David played lead guitar.&uot;

Hopkins, who will graduate from Christopher Newport University this weekend with a bachelor of science degree in business management, played golf at the NCAA Division III school in Newport News.

Hopkins shot a single-season low of 66 twice at Camp Lejeune Country Club in Jacksonville, N.C. He was named All-USA South Conference his junior and senior years.

At Franklin High School, Hopkins made the state tournament in his junior and senior years and was third in the region as a junior and seventh in the region as a senior.

Rabil, who graduated from James Madison University last week with a bachelor of business administration in management, was a placekicker for the JMU football team and a member of the NCAA Division 1-AA championship team his sophomore year. Although he played four years for the Dukes, Rabil was a walk-on as a freshman and didn’t start until the sixth game of the season.

Originally a soccer player at Franklin High School until he was recruited to kick for the football team, Rabil didn’t intend to play football in college.

&uot;I didn’t expect to play anywhere,&uot; he said with a chuckle.

When the two graduated from FHS in 2003, both were accepted to JMU, but Hopkins decided to go to Christopher Newport instead. He said it was a good decision.

&uot;If I was there, I’d probably be with David every night and I’d have failed college,&uot; he said. CNU &uot;wasn’t that far from home and I could play golf, and go back whenever I needed to. It’s an up-and-coming college. It’s grown almost double since I came in as a freshman.&uot;

Rabil agrees with Hopkins’ assessment.

&uot;We were sitting down one day about two

years ago and we looked at each other and said, ‘I am so glad you didn’t come to JMU.’ That was a funny realization. It’s 100 percent true,&uot; Rabil said.

Despite the distance between them, the friends stayed in close contact through college and talked two or three times a week. Hopkins would visit JMU occasionally on weekends.

&uot;We are a lot alike. We hang out and it’s always a laugh,&uot; Rabil said. &uot;We always got along and never fought. We have the same personalities and beliefs.&uot;

Now that college is over, Rabil and Hopkins plan to do some traveling together over the summer before buckling down to their jobs and careers.

&uot;It’s going to be great,&uot; Rabil said while he was packing for a trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. &uot;We are going to be looking at what the world has to offer and hang out this summer, and really not have anything on our shoulders.&uot;