Hawkins Article

Greg C.

Jun 1, 2005
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Marquette, Michigan
Here's a nice article about Mike Hawkins from the Journal Sentinel. Getting burned for a TD in the first preseason game could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for this guy. Sometimes that's better for a young player than getting an easy interception, which can lead to false confidence. (As far as I can tell, this has not happened to Nick Collins, but it's happened to others--Marques Anderson maybe?) I like where Hawkins says, "If I would have been at the right depth I would have picked it off." THAT'S the attitude we need back there. Now he just has to back it up.

Hawkins in the fast lane
Cornerback hopes to stick with Packers
Posted: Aug. 12, 2005

Green Bay - The speed in which rookie cornerback Mike Hawkins has ascended into a legitimate National Football League prospect isn't that surprising.

Hawkins does everything fast.

If there's one thing that will carry the fifth-round draft choice with the hard-luck story throughout his days in the NFL, it is speed. It is the reason he is competing for a spot on the Green Bay Packers' roster and possibly a prominent position on the team's defense this season.

What will ultimately determine his fate, however, won't be just whether he stops allowing 34-yard touchdown passes like the one thrown on him in the Packers' 10-7 exhibition opener Thursday night at Lambeau Field. It will be whether he can show both the physical and mental toughness to play with the big boys, a major question considering his most recent playing experience consists of one year of Division I football and a couple of Arena League games.

"He has the athletic ability," said Packers southwest scout Alonzo Highsmith, the man who uncovered Hawkins and pushed to have him drafted. "I want to see him compete on a daily basis and see if he can force himself to get better and he's done that.

"He competes hard, he's getting better. He's got a lot to learn, he's got a ways to go, but his upside is tremendous."

What Highsmith wanted to see more than anything in the San Diego game was the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Hawkins' ability to get physical. He has shown day in and day out that he can run with anybody, including Javon Walker, the Packers' top receiver. But in the NFL you have to fight off big receivers for the ball and shed blockers in the running game.

Physically, Hawkins, 21, looks more like the slight Al Harris than he does the buff Champ Bailey, and he'll have to prove he has the mental and physical toughness to handle the pounding the NFL dishes out on a daily basis.

"I think it's going to be him just getting used to getting tossed and ****** by receivers," Highsmith said. "Him coming up and tackling guys like Ahman Green. That's going to be the biggest adjustment.

"Everyone looks pretty in shorts and we'll see when the bullets start flying. That's when the real test for him will be. But I think so far he's passed most of the tests."

On Thursday, Hawkins passed the tackling test, but he made a classic rookie mistake on a second-and-9 play inside Packers territory during the third quarter. Green Bay blitzed two linebackers and Hawkins, forgetting that he had no safety help in the coverage, played too close to receiver Willie Quinnie and allowed him to run free on a post route.

Had Hawkins backed off a couple more yards, like Harris the veteran did on the other side, he would have been in a better position to break on the route and make a play on the ball.

Consider it a lesson learned.

"It was me," Hawkins said, "I didn't follow my technique. It was a zero coverage, no help. I just overlooked too much and I wasn't at the right depth. If I would have been at the right depth I would have picked it off.

"I just misjudged my alignment. I should have paid more attention to where he was. He was lining up off the ball and I thought I was farther (back) than I really was."

Those kinds of plays are the reason Hawkins stays after practice working with cornerbacks coach Lionel Washington during camp.

Hawkins is as raw as the feed corn that sprouts all around this part of the state and is a long way from being able to shut down the likes of Roy Williams, Steve Smith and Joe Horn, just a few of the polished receivers the Packers will be facing in the early part of the season.

But Hawkins does have 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash. He was one of the most heralded high school recruits coming out of Texas and appeared to have a solid college career ahead of him at Oklahoma until personal problems short-circuited his football path.

His experience with abuse, abandonment and homelessness has been well-documented and the odds of him ever making it in the NFL seemed long a few years ago. But he scratched his way back via odd jobs and a tryout with the Arena League and now has an opportunity to stick with the Packers in this, his rookie season.

Through it all, his speed has been his meal ticket. It's something that will allow him more latitude than the average cornerback when it comes to overcoming poor technique.

"You don't want him to think that, but yes (it will)," Washington said. "Speed is something that is a big asset to someone who is not a real good technician. And he will become a good technician, it's just going to take some time.

"But speed is his biggest asset right now and he's using it well. He understands how to play the deep ball. He'll get better at dropping his weight and coming back on digs, but he's doing pretty good right now."

Washington isn't particularly concerned about bigger receivers having their way with him in the passing game despite his slight build.

"It's something you're not worried about because if a guy is going to try to get physical and fight with you at the line of scrimmage, that's what we want," Washington said. "Because now that gives time for our pass rush to get there. Most of the guys that are big and strong aren't going to run away from him. And once he understands and learns that part of the game he's going to become an even better football player."

Against the Chargers, Hawkins had four tackles and didn't seem to shy away from contact. He said he knows people want to see if he can hit and he has made it a priority to prove he won't back down from tackling.

But it's a long season and if the Packers decide to use him in their nickel or dime packages or more unlikely, put him in a starting role, he's going to have to stay mentally strong. Having not even played a full college season in three years, there's much he has to prove about surviving in the NFL.

"I think I'm ahead of schedule than some people thought," Hawkins said. "But I have a lot to keep learning as far as technique, and just learning how to read other players, learn their schemes, learn what they do, learn what this receiver does.

"When I get to that point, I think it will be real good.

"Sky's the limit."

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