Hawkins is key to ECU’s success

Hawkins is key to ECU’s success
December 19
00:00 2014
(pictured above:  Josh Hawkins in action.)


Josh Hawkins is always itching to make good things happen. As a cornerback at East Carolina, it’s his job to put opposing receivers on lock-down. It’s an especially challenging position because he frequently goes one-on-one against some of the best pass receivers in the country.

Hawkins, a junior from Winston-Salem who joined the Pirates as a freshman walk-on, has stepped up in major-league fashion. During the regular season, he had 41 tackles and posted team highs in interceptions (four) and pass break-ups (11). Aside from that, Hawkins emerged as one of the college game’s elites – ranked 20th in the nation in passes defended (15).

“Once I got that first interception (vs. South Carolina), I wanted more,” said Hawkins, who graduated from Glenn. “It was like a drug and I became addicted. In our secondary, we believe we have a no-fly zone. On every play, we react as if the ball is being thrown our way. Whenever the ball is in the air, it’s up to us to either go get it or knock it down.”

The combination of Hawkins’ individual progress coupled with an improved defense paved the way for ECU’s 8-4 record and a bowl bid. East Carolina will play Florida in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3. The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. This fall, the Pirates most notable victories came against Virginia Tech in a mild upset (28-21) along with a surprising 70-41 beat-down of North Carolina.

The work that Hawkins put in this season hasn’t gone unnoticed. In late October, he was chosen as one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is widely viewed as the Heisman Trophy for college defensive backs.

“It’s been a marvelous season,” said Hawkins, who runs 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash. “Coming up with interceptions is good and I want to get as many as I can. But the bottom line is winning. Without the rest of my teammates on defense playing the way they’ve played, I wouldn’t be where I am now. When we have a three-and-out, or when we force a turnover, I make sure to thank everybody for the job they’re doing.”
Hawkins continues to improve as a student of the game, which has helped him raise his level of play. In film study, he methodically scrutinizes quarterbacks and receivers, looking for tendencies that can give him a competitive edge.

“I look at everything that goes on,” he said. “I notice how receivers come off the ball and what kind of routes they like to run in different situations. As for quarterbacks, some will stare down the receiver they’re going to throw to. Others have a habit of looking-off. When you pay attention to detail, you get a better idea of what the offense is trying to do against our coverage.

“There’s one area that I’m really working on. Sometimes I get caught looking in the backfield too much and my man gets past me. It’s a bad habit that I’m making some progress on.”

It also helps Hawkins and the rest of the secondary that East Carolina has some potent offensive weapons of its own. Shane Carden has established himself as one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country and wide receiver Justin Hardy recently set the NCAA record for career catches.

“Going up against those caliber of offensive players every day in practice makes for great preparation,” said Hawkins. “They always give us a good look, so when it’s game time, we’re ready to go.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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