When Aaron “A.J.” Hawkins hits the field, the senior offensive lineman is thinking one thing only: “team win.”
“We’re out there every week playing with passion. I play with a group of guys ready to go to war every down,” said the 6’ 1”, 310-pound, 22-year-old Hawkins, who plays at the University of Mississippi. “At Ole Miss, you’re playing for the person next to you. It’s nothing like looking down the line and seeing everybody look back at you with that look in their eye. Nothing needs to be said but ‘Let’s go.’”
The 2008 graduate of DeKalb County’s Martin Luther King, Jr. High helped lead the Lions to the Region 2-5A final and earned first team Class 5A All-State honors from the Georgia Sports Writers Association when he was a senior at the school.
These days, Hawkins’ family and friends in DeKalb are cheering him on as they watch college football on television. He also has support from Baton Rouge, LA, hometown of his parents, Aaron and Mia Hawkins, and from members of his church—Voices of Faith Ministries where his proud uncle, Bishop Gary Hawkins, Sr. presides.
“We’re all so proud of him. Even though his mom is an LSU graduate, we are Ole Miss all the way,” said A.J.’s dad.Aaron Hawkins. “We go to all his college games, no matter where they are in the country. I haven’t missed a game, home or away, since A.J. started playing at the age of 4.” Last month, Hawkins, who wears No. 76, was recognized as “SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week.”The Ole Miss Rebels defeated the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), 28-10, in Oxford, Miss on Sept. 8. The next day, friends were calling and texting Hawkins about his special honor.
“It was kind of crazy because I just woke up to all these texts and Facebook messages saying congratulations, ” said Hawkins, who helped the Ole Miss offense rack up 538 total yards, including 330 on the ground, against the Miners. Ole Miss rushed for more than 300 yards for the first time since 2010, when the team gained 425 yards on the ground against Fresno State.
This was the first time Hawkins has earned the SEC weekly award. Other Rebels who have won the honor this season include C.J. Johnson, who won the SEC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week and Aaron Morris, who won the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.
After going 2-10 and 0-8 in SEC play last year, Ole Miss is making a comeback on the gridiron this season under a new coach in Hugh Freeze and new quarterback, Bo Wallace.
“I think our first goal as a team is to make a bowl game. Our second goal, is to win a bowl game. Other than that, we go out everyday to work hard and help each other get better,” said Hawkins.
The team needs three more wins to make a bowl game. The Rebels haven’t played in a bowl game since 2010, when they defeated the Oklahoma State University Cowboys 21-7 in Dallas, Texas. Hawkins says that victory and a 25-23 win in 2009 over top-ranked Louisiana State University were his most memorable moments of his career so far.
“I would love and hope to have an opportunity to play for a team in the NFL, but when I leave Ole Miss I will leave with a degree in Broadcast Journalism,” said Hawkins.
Next on the schedule for the Rebels: The 1-4 Auburn Tigers on Oct. 13, 11:21 a.m., Central Time, in Oxford, Mississippi. The game will be aired on the SEC Network. Ole Miss will have some tough SEC competition standing between them and a bowl game. After Auburn, the team will play University of Arkansas in Little Rock on Oct. 27, The University of Georgia on Nov. 3 in Athens, a home game against Vanderbilt University on Nov. 10, then the Rebels leave Oxford to take on Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge on Nov. 17. Ole Miss will finish the season at home battling their in-state rival, Mississippi State University on Nov. 24.