Andrew Hawkins was more than a feel-good story for the Bengals last year – he was a productive NFL rookie with 24 receptions for 271 yards, 5 carries for 25 yards, and 5 special teams tackles in 14 games.
Does the 26-year-old feel like he did enough to clinch a roster spot for the upcoming season?
“No – last year doesn’t matter,” Hawkins told me. “It’s the nature of the business. They have to put their best players out there. I have to come in here and prove it all over again and that’s the name of the game.”
The battle for the anticipated six roster spots among Bengals wide receivers figures to be one of the most intriguing storylines when training camp opens next week. A.J. Green is an obvious lock for one spot, with the alphabetically listed group of Armon Binns, Hawkins, Vidal Hazelton, Justin Hilton, Marvin Jones, Kashif Moore, Taveon Rogers, Mohamed Sanu, Jordan Shipley, Brandon Tate, and Ryan Whalen fighting for the other five.
“You go to work,” said Hawkins when asked what he’ll do to try to earn a spot. “Teams are not going to be made in the spring. They’re going to be made in training camp and they are going to be made in preseason games. I tell the young guys that everybody is not going to be able to play here, but if you work on becoming a better receiver and put it on film, you’ll have a place to go play. That’s really what it’s all about.”
The ability to contribute on special teams will be a factor that could help Hawkins make the team.
“I’m hoping to do whatever they ask me to do,” Andrew told me. “If they want me to return punts or kickoffs, or run down on coverage, that’s what a football player does. I’m trying to get better at everything.”
The 5’7” former Canadian Football League player was considered a long-shot to make the squad last year when he was acquired during the first week of training camp after being cut by the Rams. The younger brother of former Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins proved to be a quick and shifty weapon as a slot receiver, but is determined to show that he can be a more frequent target for Andy Dalton.
“As a professional, it’s the most minute details that take you to the next level,” said Hawkins. “Whether you’re working on releases or getting the right depth on certain routes, you’re trying to get on the same page as the quarterback. That’s the biggest thing as a wide receiver – you have to see the same thing as the quarterback from a different perspective. That’s one of the things that I’ve focused on and hopefully it helps elevate my game a little bit.”
Andrew enjoyed an eventful offseason, highlighted by the birth of his son Austin Wayne Hawkins on February 15th. When he wasn’t spending time with his own child, Andrew took the opportunity to share his story of overcoming the odds with other kids.
“I did a lot of speaking at camps and schools,” said Hawkins. “I remember a time when they didn’t care to hear me speak and it will come again. Hopefully while I’m playing in the NFL, kids get excited and I’m able to tell my story. If it can help somebody, that’s the biggest thing for me.”
And what is the crux of his message to children?
“Perseverance and hard work man,” said Hawkins. “That’s the name of the game. You have to believe in yourself and you have to put in the work to back it up.”
That’s exactly what he plans to do when camp opens on July 27th.
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