"You can say that [Auburn and Alabama are on his list], because they are in the mix with every other school, but get this straight from me," Hawthorne stated. "A lot of people think that when you come out of the state of Alabama that it is automatically going to be an in-state battle. I hope that you guys don't look at me and say it is going to an in-state battle. It is most likely that I might end up out of state when it is over. I am just as interested in Florida, Miami, and Florida State as I am in Alabama and Auburn."
With that settled, this 6-2, 192-pound blend of size, strength and speed has been on a tour of southeastern schools where the football teams usually have a shot at winning a national championship. He has taken a businessman's approach to recruiting, checking out as many schools as possible.
"Oh yeah I have been busy (this summer)," he said. "I have been everywhere … Louisiana, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee. Basically I am trying to do my research so I can narrow some things down. I want to get some insight so I can get an overall view of the school."
The desire for insight and knowledge led him to Gainesville last week for the "Friday Night Lights" mini-camp at the University of Florida. With music blaring and crowd noise pumped in the Gator coaching staff worked a number of the nation's top prospects through a number of drills. Hawthorne didn't participate in the drills but he soaked up the atmosphere.
"It was great, man," he exclaimed. "It was different because a lot of camps are in the day time but it was a great atmosphere being at night. The whole trip was great and I wouldn't trade it for nothing. The Swamp was louder (with the music and piped in crowd noise) than I thought it would be. It was actually my second time I had been there … one time earlier when it was empty. Now I got a chance to see it under the lights and it was great. Coach (Urban) Meyer he wanted me to compete but I told him that I just got done with a passing camp two days before. We won every game that I played in."
The following day Hawthorne stayed around for a Junior Day. No camp was involved but he got a tour of the facilities and a look at Florida's campus, academics and social atmosphere. The day included a trip to UF's recreational site at Lake Wauberg.
"The lake was great, too," he said. "I got a chance to talk to Coach (Billy) Gonzalez and Coach Meyer. (Coach John) Hevesy recruits me and he is energetic and friendly. All three of those coaches are great coaches. Coach Gonzalez told me they would put me everywhere in the offense to try and get the ball in my hands."
During the Gainesville visit, he got a chance to spend time with the Florida players. He came away impressed that the Gators are a very close team.
"They sounded like it was very family oriented," he said. "They joke around and stuff like normal college students. They just seemed so friendly but seemed like they were on a mission to win a national championship. One of the incoming freshmen, Louis Murphy … I camped with him at Tennessee. I know a lot of them guys over there. I know pretty much all of them."
He has plenty of schools trying to recruit him but he's well aware that it's about time to sift the offers and get things down to a manageable list.
"Yeah, it's a fairly long list," he said. "I haven't narrowed anything down yet or anything like that. Basically everything is wide open and I am trying to narrow it down. I have over 20 offers. I want to narrow it down by the time the season starts, hopefully I will have a top 12 or something like that. I'm just not sure right now."
What has made the recruiting process difficult is that he sees positives at just about every stop.
"I can't just point out one thing," he said. "Everywhere I have been I have seen something that I haven't seen before. That is why I say that all the schools are even on my list right now."
The criteria that have to be met for a school to merit a further look has been set, too.
"Number one is academics," he said. "That is the most important thing so as to have something to fall back on. Number two is playing time. I want to go somewhere and go in and make an immediate impact as a freshman. Number three is the overall environment and relationship with the coaches. I want it to be a home away from home."
It will be awhile before Tim Hawthorne decides if that home away from home is far away from home. In his home state, everyone figures it will be either Alabama or Auburn. However, he's made it abundantly clear that he's not afraid to go out of state.