The Man with a Plan
“Anything you do, work hard is the first pillar,” says Andrew Hawkins, who came into the NFL in 2011 with the goal of playing just one professional game, thinking they would “pull the rug” right from under him.
Born and raised in the small town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Hawkins grew up seeing a future for himself in football. While his father Artrell Hawkins Sr. played running back at the University of Pittsburgh and older brother Artrell Hawkins Jr. enjoyed a nine-year NFL career, he felt in his mind that football was his best chance of making something bigger of himself. Hawkins had been attending NFL training camps since he was a small child and picked up the sport at seven years old. Although athletically inclined, he stood at only five feet seven inches and perpetually lacked the stature to match his athletic abilities. It started to feel as though football was less of a realistic option. “Having to kind of push through that at a time when nobody thought I would be able to do it, let alone my brother had done it, they were like, ‘What are the chances that lightning strikes twice?’” Hawkins opens up. “It took a supreme belief in myself and faith in God that if I just kept at it, I would figure it out.”
His faith in himself was put to the test as he received no NCAA Division I scholarship offers after high school. Still determined to play Division I football, however, he bypassed a chance at a free education at smaller Division II universities and decided to pay his way through his first semester of college, and then earned a scholarship at the University of Toledo. “I wanted to prove myself at the highest level,” says Hawkins.
After four successful years at the University of Toledo, Hawkins neither got drafted nor was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, and once again, his dreams of playing professional football hung by a thread. He spent the rest of the year away from football and worked at a factory while interning for the NFL’s Detroit Lions. He was also a contestant on 4th and Long, a reality show where the winner would receive an NFL tryout. Hawkins placed second and jockeyed that into a contract with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Two seasons later, he earned a spot on the St. Louis Rams pre-season roster, which led to being signed by the Cincinnati Bengals and spending three years of his career there, and another three with the Cleveland Browns. In total, Hawkins ended up playing six seasons in the NFL (twice the average length). “I was just happy to be getting paid to play a game that I love,” shares Hawkins, who also speaks of football with gratitude and indebtedness as he refuses to cheat the sport that afforded him so many opportunities. He retired in 2017 on the heels of signing a contract with the New England Patriots, deciding to pursue other ventures since he did not want to hold a roster spot hostage when there were other young players vying for the same position.“The game has been very good to me. It’s set me up in ways I could never imagine. It’s helped my family. It’s changed our entire economic structure and provided us with education. I’ve been able to help nieces, nephews, my kids, family members and even people who aren’t a part of my family,” he recalls.
By the time retirement came, Hawkins was prepared to tackle his newest challenges as he spent his NFL offseasons earning a master’s degree in sports administration from Columbia University. He then hounded mutual acquaintances into getting himself in contact with Maverick Carter, the business manager of LeBron James. Looking to further prove himself outside the football field, he interned for an entire offseason at UNINTERRUPTED, a multimedia platform for athletes created by Carter and James. “Before I decided to retire, that was one of the first conversations I had. I had opportunities to go to other places but the way he (Maverick Carter) and his team and LeBron run their business, it was just like, there couldn’t be a better place in the world to work,” says Hawkins who currently holds the title of director of business development at UNINTERRUPTED as well as the Robot Company (another media/marketing company founded by Carter and James). He also hosts SportsCenter on Snapchat for ESPN as well as being an NFL analyst on their various programs.
Moreover, here is another important part of Andrew Hawkins: helping others and being a voice for the voiceless. He hosts an annual Christmas Takeover in Cleveland, a tradition that gives back to those in need during the holiday season. Hawkins has also been outspoken on social issues, having donned a “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford” shirt before game days in response to the death of two young black men killed at the hands of the police.
He has had many major decisions to make to get to this point, but he has not been doing this all alone – his wife Markisha is a collaborating partner in any major upheaval that affects them and their three children. “I don’t want to say it (football) is who I am because it’s not, but at the same time, it was the catalyst for everything I’m doing. Football, to me, is like a relationship, it’s like family,” asserts Hawkins, whose self-titled biopic is currently in the works.
Writer: Alain Clerine
Photographer: Seung Lee (www.kokumastudio.com)
Photographer Manager: Phil Kim
Stylist: Katelynn Tilley
Men’s Grooming: Phoebe Dawson (using Murad Skincare)
Videographer: Wanhi Lee
Editor: Eiko Watanabe