On January 5, 2011 – one year ago today – Andrew Hawkins took a big step toward realizing a dream when he had his first NFL tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals.
What does Hawkins remember about that day?
“It was cold,” the rookie receiver told me. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope I can run a good 40 out here in the snow.’ I was just excited about the opportunity. I remember being surprised that Coach Lewis was out there, and the owner was out there, and the offensive coordinator was out there…I didn’t know that everybody was going to be out there for the workout. I was a little nervous, but here we are today and everything worked out.”
Hawkins is one of the best feel-good stories in the NFL this year. The former factory worker (cleaned engines), caddy (all-time best tip $50), and reality TV show participant (4th and Long hosted by Michael Irvin), not only made the Bengals roster, but ranks 5th on the team with 23 receptions.
“I’m not surprised,” said quarterback Bruce Gradkowski who played with Hawkins at the University of Toledo. “Hawk is such a competitor and handles his business the way a professional should. He was like that in college and he’s like that to this day. You know he is going to work his tail off and know what to do. His athletic ability sure puts him above the rest.”
Although he is an NFL rookie, Hawkins has playoff experience. He earned a pair of championship rings as a member of Montreal’s Grey Cup-winning teams in the Canadian Football League in each of the last two seasons.
“I have one ring with me here in Cincinnati and the other one is back home where I’m from,” said Hawkins. “I might wear it occasionally on the road. They’re pretty big and gaudy so I can’t wear ‘em both at the same time, but I like to show them off a little bit.”
Hawkins has every right to be proud of his championship rings and the fact that he’s overcome long odds to become a key contributor on a playoff-bound NFL team.
“If you tell him, ‘Hey, you’re never going to play in the NFL,’ he’s like, ‘What? I will play in the NFL,’ said Gradkowski. “If I said to him, ‘You’re never going to be a movie star,’ he might try to do that.”
He’s already done a reality TV show, and while it helped him get exposure, it has also had its drawbacks.
“My girlfriend hates watching reality shows with me because I break down all the secrets about what’s going on behind the scenes. She’s like, ‘Shut up and let me enjoy the Kardashians.’”
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