Green Bay — When Josh Hawkins first came to Green Bay in May 2016, he was unfamiliar with the storied tradition of the franchise.
The free-agent cornerback from East Carolina was simply trying to live his dream by making the roster of a pro team. What Hawkins did know about the Packers was the team was noted for giving undrafted corners a chance to prove they belong at the NFL level.
Players like Tramon Williams and Sam Shields are recent free-agent success stories who developed into Pro Bowlers and were rewarded with lucrative contract extensions for their performance, work ethic, and dedication. Both also earned rings as members of Green Bay’s 2010 Super Bowl XLV team.
“I heard the story of Sam (Shields) and his success and I patterned myself after him,” Hawkins said in the Packers’ locker room Sunday after the 27-24 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. “I looked up to Sam Shields and he taught me a lot.
“When Sam was here, I shadowed him to learn as much as I could from him to try to improve each and every day. I’ve worked my butt off to get this far and I’ll never slow down. God told me to come here. I love this place and my teammates and the opportunity.”
Former Packers linebacker George Koonce (1992-’99) is a fellow East Carolina alum who is impressed by Hawkins.
“He’s a great young man, and you can tell he grew up in a household with Christian values and great parents,” said Koonce, who attended alumni activities during the Packers-Bengals game weekend. “I asked Josh what number he wore back in Pop Warner football. He said No. 7 because that was the number of God. He’s a hard worker, the kind of player you root for to make it.”
Like Shields, the game of the 5-10, 189-pound Hawkins is built on speed. He ran a 4.39 on his pro day, but went undrafted. A walk-on at East Carolina who earned a scholarship, he is no stranger to proving himself.
The speedy Hawkins flashed his potential and made the 53-man roster last year, but missed the first two regular-season games with a hamstring injury. In the third game at home against the Detroit Lions, Hawkins defended one pass, but also gave up a 73-yard touchdown play.
On the play, he was beaten off the line of scrimmage and then let up as Marvin Jones, Jr., tiptoed down the sideline.
It was a lesson learned for the young defender, who was in position coach Joe Whitt’s doghouse and did not see another regular-season snap on defense. Hawkins continued to play on special teams and appeared in 11 games and recorded four tackles. He also played in all three postseason games and registered one special teams tackle.
With injuries mounting in the secondary during 2017 training camp, Hawkins started the second preseason game in Washington and acquitted himself well with three pass breakups and five total tackles. He drew high praise from head coach Mike McCarthy for his play: “He had the highest grade of the corners last night, so that was exciting to see because it was an opportunity that he had earned — and with that he stopped up and performed.”
Hawkins was inactive for the season opener versus Seattle, but has played on special teams units in the Atlanta and Bengals games.
“This was a great win for us as a team,” he said. “We had to fight to the end. I’m just trying to get better. Every day in practice we go against Aaron Rodgers and our receivers. They are the best and it only makes us better.
“Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix) and Morgan (Burnett) help me out and my coach (Joe Whitt) is a great teacher. He is just so knowledgeable about the game. I also ask Mike Daniels and even Aaron questions, like what he saw from the defense and why he placed the ball on that shoulder versus the other.”
With the addition of rookie defensive backs Kevin King and Josh Jones, Hawkins will continue to learn, develop, and contribute when called upon to earn more opportunities on defense.
PLAYBOOK ON JOSH HAWKINS
Given name: Josh Rashard Hawkins
Born: Jan. 23, 1993, in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Favorite flicks: “300” and I really like action movies. I like Hangover 1 and 2 too.
What I’m reading: Sports Illustrated right now.
Favorite meal: Crab legs, steak, and potatoes. Oh yeah.
First job: I worked at Applebee’s and I was a host. My second job was at T.J. Maxx, but then I got a scholarship to East Carolina so I was able to quit.
My ride: Mercedes and Camaro. I love fast and I love classy.
Role model(s): I get asked this one a lot. My dad never got to play in the NFL, but he was a great mentor and role model for me. Both he and my mom were hard workers, so I get my work ethic and courage from them.
Person I’d like to dine with: Barack Obama. He’s an inspiration to our culture and youth.
Send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
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