And even though his winless Panthers were blown out 102-50 by the Razorbacks, it didn't put a damper on his return.
"We don't have enough time in the day to talk about all my fond memories that I had at Arkansas," said Hawkins, who played for the Hogs from 1989-93. "And there was more off the court than on the court because the good people of Fayetteville and in Arkansas, they treated me like a son and they're still treating me like a son even though I'm 34-years-old.
"This is one of the greatest memories. Coming back here and everybody still showing how much they care about me.
"I can't describe how I feel right now."
Wearing a dark gray suit with a black undershirt and matching tie, Hawkins was introduced to the 11,648 in attendance Saturday. The lights went out (for Arkansas' introduction) seconds before Hawkins' name was called by the public address announcer.
It didn't matter as many of the Razorbacks faithful still gave the third-year Prairie View A&M assistant a sincere round of applause.
"The lights were out but I think everybody remembered what I looked like and the fans still gave me a very warm welcome so it was exciting," Hawkins said. "It's amazing that even some of the current players knew who I was and you just don't realize what you did here until you come back."
Hawkins, a native of Prairie View, Texas, stood a couple times and showed the intensity he was known for as a player at Arkansas. But instead of diving into press row for a loose ball or hammering home one of his patented "Tomahawk" dunks, he could only slam his foot onto the floor and yell instruction to his players on the court.
"I was walking through the auditorium (in Bud Walton Arena) and showing all my players the trophies and everything," Hawkins said. "Then, I looked and saw my number (No. 21) up there with all the great players, it's amazing.
"It was quite an experience and I learned a lot about life. I wouldn't be the man I am if it hadn't have been for me coming here and being an Arkansas Razorback."
His former roommate and teammate Ron Huery gave Hawkins a bear hug when they saw each other after Saturday's game.
"It's quite a tribute to the Arkansas program that somebody graduated on time and is having success," Huery said. "He's already an assistant coach and I feel he'll be a great head coach one day."
Hawkins probably would have been a head coach already had he not put his dream of coaching basketball on hold while pursuing a career in marketing.
"I'm surprised it took him so long," said longtime UA Sports Information Director Rick Schaeffer. "He's a guy that ought to be coaching. He understands the game and the best thing is, he understands young guys."
One reason Schaeffer believes Hawkins is cut out for coaching is because of what he went through as a player at Arkansas. Four games into the 1991 season, Hawkins suffered an Achilles' tendon injury and received a medical redshirt.
It was an injury that could have ended Hawkins' career, but he stuck with his rehabilitation and returned to put up 13.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in leading the Hogs to a 22-9 record and a Sweet 16 appearance as a senior in 1993. He led the Hogs in free-throw percentage for two seasons (1991,1993) and he hit 94.1 percent of his free-throw attempts in 1992, which is tied with Pat Bradley for the all-time record.
"One thing about coaching is teaching young men perseverance and if anybody ought to know about perseverance, it's Darrell Hawkins," Schaeffer said.
The Razorbacks reached the NCAA Tournament in each of Hawkins' four seasons, including a berth in the Final Four in 1990. He said he still makes monthly calls to former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson.
"You can't quit," Hawkins said. "That's the main thing I try to instill in my guys because there are going to be peaks and there are going to be valleys and eventually, you will have your time to be on top."
On Saturday, Hawkins was.
Hawkins Adds Another Memory
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Scout On the Road: SeptemberScout takes a look at some of the top prospects we saw in person during the month of September...
Scout FootballWednesday at 2:00 PM
Longhorns Preview Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestMonday at 6:21 PM
Louisiana CB 'Real Close' to a DecisionIt may not be too long before one of the top cornerbacks in Louisiana makes his decision. Four schools are high on his list and you can get the latest here...
Scout FootballMonday at 6:15 AM
JC defensive back talks ISU official visitOver the weekend, Iowa State played host to one of their top 2017 targets in the current recruiting cycle in Paramount, CA three-star JUCO CB Keisean Nixon. This visit for the…
AllCyclonesSunday at 6:34 PM