“This team and this school means everything to me. I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish together this year, including a great win in the Bowl. I’m honored to be able to call myself a LSU TIGER for the rest of my life. This is not a goodbye but a thank you for the moments and memories that will be with me for a lifetime!”
In the past few drafts there seems to be a common thread—the Steelers seem to be greatly interested in drafting guys who are first and foremost athletes. Hawkins definitely fits this mold—in high school he not only played football but basketball and baseball. He also went in for track and field throughout his high school career. In 2011 he was the state champion (Louisiana) at the shot put. The football analyst for New Orlean’s station WWL said this about Hawkins:
“He’s the best athlete LSU had up front, most LSU players will tell you. He’s a guy who has some movement skills. He’s awfully fast and quick for a big man.”
One thing Hawkins has been is durable. The single game he missed last season was the only game he missed at LSU. But it came at a cost, as he told the New Orleans Advocate:
“Played all year with banged-up foot and ankle,” Hawkins said. “During the games, I’d re-twist it. Just tape it back up and try to get back out there and handle my business.”
He felt he was fully healthy for the first time several weeks into his combine training at a facility in Arizona. He also told Missi Mathews of Steelers.com that he felt he was mature enough to declare. What does his position coach think? Mike Munchak discussed him after the draft:
[He] can play both sides, left tackle, right tackle. It makes our group better when you can bring in a good athlete and a good player who has the ability to compete right away…Especially as the draft goes on, it’s hard to find players you believe have the versatility to play both spots…We feel this guy can come in, learn from the guys we have, push the guys we have, and now it’s just a matter of how quickly we feel he can contribute.
Munchak obviously likes this guy, which is good news.
I couldn’t find a lot of personal information about him, except that his father, with whom he was clearly very close, died of a heart attack in 2012. His father predicted many years ago that he would be drafted into the NFL, so I’m sure that for Hawkins this exciting time is bittersweet, as his father isn’t here to share it.
I’ll end with the following, from a short Mike Prisuta article on Steelers.com. Prisuta asked what it was like working with Mike Munchak:
“It’s more than what I expected,” Hawkins said. “I was expecting a great time just to learn from one of the greats and it’s been exactly that and more. He’s teaching me a lot in just these two days.
“It’s been perfect.”
Hawkins has already learned a significant lesson about what an NFL rookie camp demands.
“Keep focused, make sure you get in the playbook and just learn just keep up with the tempo,” he said.
“Everything goes fast, from tempo to play-calling. You gotta get on the road. You gotta have your mind ready.
“It’s a fast tempo, a lot of learning terminology but honestly, I’m loving it.”
That explained the ear-to-ear grin Hawkins was sporting.
“I feel like a big kid out there,” he said.