Hawkins making big rush at end
April 25, 2006
BY BRAD BIGGS Staff Reporter
Former Illinois State defensive end Brent Hawkins had just arrived at an Atlanta-area hotel last Thursday night from Kansas City, and if he had jumbled the date, time zone or city he was in, it would have been understandable.
But the fast-rising prospect for this weekend's NFL draft was sharp and on his game, ready for a meeting with Falcons coaches and front-office officials right then and there. It was eighth and final pre-draft visit for the defensive end from Illlinois State in a whirlwind two-week process that started with the Bears, who had him visit Halas Hall for an extra look.
The tour hasn't brought any clarity to Hawkins' future, just more anticipation.
"In exact order,'' he said when asked if he could rattle off the teams that brought him in for a visit: the Bears, Jaguars, Steelers, Packers, Colts, Cowboys, Chiefs and Falcons.
The Cardinals and Giants have shown interest lately, too, and for good measure, the Jaguars checked out Hawkins one final time in a private workout Sunday in Normal. Different teams are interested in Hawkins for different reasons. Bears coach Lovie Smith likes him as an edge rusher, and who wouldn't after he ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash on his pro day.
The Steelers and Cowboys envision Hawkins as an outside linebacker. He admits he's more comfortable playing with his hand down but says any attention he receives is a blessing because he knows he will wind up with a team that really wants him. His value has been widely debated by draftniks. Ourlads Scouting Service projected him to go in the seventh round, but last week Mel Kiper Jr. said the defensive MVP of the Hula Bowl could be chosen as early as the second round.
Hawkins, from Godfrey, Ill., says playing for the Division I-AA Redbirds for only two years after transferring from Purdue is part of the reason for the wide range of opinions surrounding him.
"That and some misconstrued opinions about what I would run in the 40,'' said Hawkins, who played basketball at Lewis & Clark Community College in between Purdue and ISU. "Most people thought I was going to run a 4.75. It's nice to hear such gurus say good things about you, but it doesn't mean anything. I've been underrated the whole year. It's just a crapshoot.''
Undersized at a shade less than 6-2 and 240 pounds, Hawkins perfectly fits the mold of what Smith likes. But since the Carolina Panthers declined to match the offer sheet signed by cornerback Ricky Manning Jr., the Bears are down to five picks. More pressing needs might rule the weekend.
"There's always a chance to talk about a defensive lineman,'' Smith said. "You cannot have too many defensive linemen, period.''
Hawkins connected with the coach in about a 30-minute meeting.
"Lovie was a really nice guy,'' he said. "He told me what they liked about me and that size doesn't matter if you have the heart and the drive. I think he saw that in me. I won't quit, and on the field I am striving to be the best.''
It's interesting that half of the teams looking at Hawkins come from the Tony Dungy coaching tree. Dungy's Colts run the Cover-2 scheme Smith installed, as does Dungy disciple Herm Edwards in Kansas City. The Packers are implementing a similar defense under new coach Mike McCarthy.
Landing in one of those cities might make Hawkins happiest.
"I'm more comfortable playing end just because I've done that the last four years,'' he said. "But there is always room to improve, and I'm always willing to learn more things.
"I've played linebacker before, so it's not disheartening when teams say that to me. I'm confident I can play any position. They say I'm a 'tweener and an athlete. That can either be the devil, or it can be really good for you.''
Two defensive linemen from the area with Nigerian roots also hope to be selected on the first day. Stanford tackle Babatunde Oshinowo of Neuqua Valley and Indiana end Victor Adeyanju of Curie both might go in the third round.
"I want to be a great player,'' said Oshinowo, whom some teams view as a fit for the nose in a 3-4 defense. "I had a good talk with one of the scouts from the Chiefs about what that really means. You can't just say, 'I want to be a great player.' Great players have outstanding careers over a period of time, and that's what I want to do.''
Adeyanju, who has visited the Jets, made 44 consecutive starts for the Hoosiers and is a solid two-way player, posting a team-high 61/2 sacks as a senior.
"I always knew I could play,'' said the 6-4, 270-pound Adeyanju, who admitted he didn't start thinking about the NFL until he was a junior. "It was just getting bigger, getting stronger. I feel I can play the run and the pass effectively right now.''
Owen Daniels, originally a quarterback from Naperville Central, sort of stumbled onto the tight end position as an experiment before Wisconsin's preparation for the Alamo Bowl in 2002. Daniels wound up getting hurt and missing all of spring practice. With Brooks Bollinger and Jim Sorgi still in front of him at quarterback, he knew he'd be waiting at least a year to get on the field, so he agreed to stick at tight end.
He's one of more than a dozen intriguing prospects at the position, making it the deepest tight end class in years.
"I was joking with my parents that they should have had me a year earlier,'' said Daniels, who attended the Bears' pro day for local prospects, visited the Vikings, Buccaneers and Redskins and had individual workouts for the Cowboys and Patriots. "But I'm proud to be a part of this class because there are so many good guys in it. It doesn't matter where you start, it's where you finish, and that's how I'm looking at it. I need to play well for the first three, four years and get to that second contract.''
Daniels has good size at 6-3, 251 pounds, and could be projected as an H-back type because of his athletic ability. That's usually a tag that means someone isn't an accomplished blocker, but depending on the scheme, Daniels is projected as a mid-round selection.