Two-Way Player Pursues His NFL Dream

WR/CB Andrew Hawkins (Toledo Athletics)

Andrew Hawkins, the younger brother of NFL defensive back Artrell Hawkins, used his speed and intelligence as a wide receiver, cornerback, return specialist and punt gunner for the University of Toledo. But he'll have to overcome one obstacle that a few other NFL players faced when they were draft prospects.

Andrew Hawkins has dazzled fans at the University of Toledo during his collegiate career as the school's first two-way player in approximately 40 years. A wide receiver on offense, he flipped to cornerback when the opponent had the ball. On punts, he was one of the top gunners in the Mid-American Conference. And he even returned kickoffs during his senior season.

"He is honestly one of the best all-around athletes that I've come across," said Toledo cornerbacks coach Richard McNutt. "To be able to play receiver, then special teams and then be able to jump right back in on defense at cornerback shows you what kind of talent this kid has. He is just one of those old-fashioned football players."

Hawkins comes from football bloodlines to boot. His father, Artrell Hawkins, Sr., was a running back who played for the University of Pittsburgh and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1980. His older brother, Artrell, was a second-round draft pick by the Bengals back in 1991 and also played for the Patriots up until signing a contract with the Jets last month as a free agent. He has a younger brother, Wayne Jones, who is a defensive lineman at the University of Pittsburgh, and he's the cousin of former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Carleton Haselrig, who played for the Steelers in the 1990s.

"One thing I know I can do well, that I get from my family, is I can run," Hawkins told Scout.com during an exclusive interview. "So when the coaches knew that, they knew if there was one player on the team that could play offense, defense, and special teams, it was me.


Photo: Toledo Athletics

"I pride myself on my conditioning and being in shape.  I'm usually one of the most well-conditioned guys on the team and that helped me out a lot."

Hawkins showed off his straight-line speed at Toledo's pro day in front of scouts from a number of NFL teams, posting a 4.34-second 40 time.

"It's a little harder with your first try being your Pro Day," he said. "So I wanted to come out with a good time and kind of set the bar a bit."

Had he been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and logged that time, he would have finished second among wide receivers and fourth among cornerbacks. His 38-inch vertical jump would have been second at both positions. His 4.03-second 20-yard shuttle would have placed second among wide receivers and first out of all cornerbacks. And his 6.81-second 3-cone drill would have put him in a tie for sixth among the receivers and fourth among cornerbacks.

So why wasn't he there? And with all he has going for him, why is Hawkins well aware that he's fighting to simply get a chance to play in the NFL this year?

"My biggest thing is fighting against my size," Hawkins explained.

At 5-foot-7, 187 pounds, the hard-working and highly versatile player is battling one factor he can't do anything about. It's the same issue that other current NFL players with less-than prototypical size faced each year while they were being scrutinized for their NFL opportunity, such as Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, who is the same height as Hawkins.

Like others who have had to overcome that obstacle, Hawkins hopes teams will focus on what he did on the football field and his other measurables.

"He's a guy that can make a big play at any time and really change field position fast because he has impeccable speed," said Toledo head coach Tom Amstutz. "He always practices at full-speed. He does a great job."

"He was our leader in the receiver room this year and also with the team," said Toledo wide receivers coach Chris Hedden. "He is one of those players that works his tail off all the time and sets an example for the rest of our players.

"He deserves all the success he comes across, because he earns it everyday on that practice field."

Hawkins has been grateful for the opportunities his coaches gave him to contribute in all aspects of the game. He finished his collegiate career with 65 catches for 633 yards and four touchdowns, 25 runs for 146 yards and one touchdown, 21 kickoff returns for 358 yards with an average of 23.4 yards on returnable kicks, 17 tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt.

"They know what kind of player I am, that I'll do anything for the team," he said. "I'm more of a sacrifice yourself to get a "W" for the team, but they knew that.  They put me in a position where if I could help the team, I would do it as long as it helped get the win."

Hawkins started out at Toledo strictly as a wide receiver, but the team's cornerbacks coach spotted the qualities in him that he thought would translate well to the defensive side of the pass routes.

"I have pretty good corner skills from the fact that my older brother is an NFL cornerback and he showed me a lot leading up to college," he said. "Then with me playing receiver all through college, it helps on both sides.  At corner, I know what the receiver is thinking, and at receiver I have an idea how the corner is going to play me.  I think I used that to my advantage all season."

Although he didn't put up huge numbers as a wide receiver during his senior year, Hawkins played a key role for the team among the position group.

"We had a lot of young receivers who were really talented.  We had a sophomore who caught for 1,300 yards and another one who caught for 900 yards, and I was kind of the leader," he said. "I might not have had the most yards, but they came to me. 

"In a situation where my coach needed help communicating with anybody or getting anybody to step up in practice, he came to me and I took care of it."


Photo: Toledo Athletics

As a kickoff returner, Hawkins' vision, agility and quickness served him well. And he hopes that helps him get his foot in the door with an NFL team this year. But another area where he feels he can contribute during his rookie season is in the role of punt gunner, one of the players who is split out wide on punt coverage, using their speed to get downfield to smother the punt returner before he can get up to full speed with the ball.

And he might not have had the opportunity to display those skills on film for NFL scouts if he hadn't stepped up to volunteer for the job.

"At the beginning of the year, I was only on kickoff return and I was a safety on the kickoff team and we had some special teams issues," Hawkins explained. "So I waited in the coaches' meeting room and sat down with them and said, 'Hey, you need a gunner on the punt team and I'm your man.  Nobody can block me on the line and I'll be the first one down there every time.' 

"The first game they tried me out, it was our best net-punt-average game, so they kept me there throughout the season. We were first in the nation in net punt yards because we had a great punter. And with me helping out at gunner, and it helped the team's success."

While football has been a major focus in his life, Hawkins also dedicated himself to his academics, carrying a double major at Toledo in marketing and professional sales.

"I have to prepare for life after football, I know it won't last forever," he said. "I'm trying to get it done on both ends."

But he hopes to hold off that moment where he'll have to walk away from his football playing days for at least a while longer. With the interest he has received so far from scouts and some of his NFL connections to the Steelers and Patriots organizations through his family, he's hopeful that someone will give him a chance to prove that he can contribute in many ways to their success, just as 5-foot-6 running back Darren Sproles has done for the San Diego Chargers.

"I'll do anything that any team asks of me, and I promise not to let them down," he said.

Hawkins just wants to continue to find a way to help a team get a "W" each week. And you can't help but hope that one of the league's 32 NFL teams will give this determined and versatile young man that chance.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.

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