Hawkins was the second college coach to offer Kenny Stills a scholarship last November behind Boise State. He has been keeping in regular contact with the 6-foot-1, 175-pound speedster from Encinitas (Calif.) La Costa Canyon High School rated by Scout.com as the No. 6 wide receiver in the nation in the 2010 class.
Stills says he is intrigued by the Buffs and regularly speaks with most of the offensive coaches on staff, including wide-receivers-coach-in-waiting, Ashley Ambrose. But Stills says the communication he receives from Hawkins is unique.
"Coach Hawkins is always sending me handwritten stuff in the mail probably once or twice a week," Stills said. "They definitely do the best job of getting mail out and getting emails out and trying to contact me.
"He sends me stuff that says like how great it would be to have "Stills" on the back of a black-and-gold jersey. I get pictures of myself in their uniform. He's always talking about me being a Buff and how I can help change the program around and help them take the next step and how I'm the guy they need to help lead their program."
It makes perfect sense that Hawkins would take such an interest in recruiting Stills. Hawkins has taken over coaching wide receivers while he tutors Ambrose for the job. The position is extremely short on quality depth. The Buffs went through spring practices with just three scholarship wide receivers and one them, Josh Smith, just announced his transfer.
Stills said the opportunity to play early in a program like Colorado is a selling point, but Stills is likely to play early no matter where he goes.
"I definitely think the No. 1 thing is coming in early and playing early and really being a need at the school," Stills said. "I've just got to figure out which is the best school that has the most need.
Stills is the son of former All-Big Ten defensive back Ken Stills Sr., who played professionally for the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. He said he is up to 20 offers now after Maryland, North Carolina and Michigan became the latest to join the chase this week. UNC and Michigan made verbal offers with promises of written offers to follow.
"It's hard to really have a favorite or have a list when you're talking to a different guy every day," Still said.
Stills had a huge junior season with 64 total catches for 1,274 yards and 16 touchdowns. He led his team to the CIF-San Diego Section D-I championship. He had more than 600 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore.
Colorado is still looking for its first winning season under Hawkins in the fourth year of his tenure this fall. That fact figures to have many of the highly rated prospects Hawkins is recruiting taking a wait-and-see attitude with the Buffs, seeing how they do this fall. Stills admits that is probably the case with him as well, but he isn't planning on choosing a school until late January or even National Signing Day anyway.
"It definitely factors in, but at the same time, it's like, 'Hey, there is almost another year to go by before I make a decision. They could have a huge year this year and then all that doesn't really matter.' I definitely feel like that conference is tough. It's not just a walk in the park for them to win games. I have a lot of respect for what they're trying to do."
Stills has been to the Centennial State in the past to go snowboarding. He said he also has friends and relatives at CU who are students in Boulder.
Stills said it's still too early to know where he will use his five official visits this fall, but he does plan to use them all before deciding on a school. He also is making a handful of unofficial trips to schools around the nation this summer, including visiting the defending champs at Florida.
Stills said he is looking for a "college town" environment and is not opposed to moving as far away as the East Coast if it's the right fit.
In fact, Penn State might be the team to beat at this point.
"I've always had a lot of respect for their fan base and what they do out there and coach Paterno. I'm excited to get out there," he said. "I just love everything they do out there. When I think of Penn State, I think of passionate fan base and a passionate coach, someone who is committed. I think of tradition and it definitely draws me to them."