Hawkinson Stepping Up

Tanner Hawkinson can close his eyes and still remember those magical road trips from McPherson, Kan., to Lawrence growing up and watching KU football and basketball games with his family.

His grandfather, a KU alum, had season tickets, and Hawkinson would always love visiting his brothers and sister, who were students at Kansas.

This was his time, his little world.

Hawkinson, whose mother, Kathy, also attended Kansas, feels blessed to now carry on the Jayhawk family tradition as a senior left tackle on the football team.

"It means a lot to be able to see them be part of the KU family, and for myself to be able come to Lawrence and play football as well, it means quite a bit," he said.

Hawkinson is hoping to give his family plenty to cheer about his season. With new coach Charlie Weis, it's a new beginning for Hawkinson and KU football, who are hoping to rebound after three straight losing seasons.

"I think everyone knows the past couple of years for us hasn't been what we wanted and what's expected of us, but it's a fresh start with coach Weis," Hawkinson said. "He's been great. He's got a real good resume, good football knowledge and brought a lot of excitement to the program, not only to the fans but the players. We're really excited for the upcoming season."

Hawkinson is especially excited to get the season underway since this is his last year as a Jayhawk. He has started a team-best 36 consecutive games (every contest of his career), and will make his 37th start on Saturday against South Dakota State at Memorial Stadium.

"It's crazy to think (my senior year is) already here," he said. "Obviously, I want to go out on a high note, get to a bowl game, and get this program rolling and in the direction it needs to be headed and start a new legacy here for the younger players and coach Weis."

Hawkinson has certainly made his own name the last three years as a force on KU's offensive line. After redshirting in 2008, he was named a Freshman All-America first-team selection by the Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News and College FootballNews.com.

He started his freshman and sophomore seasons at left tackle before being moved to right tackle last season. Now, he's back at left tackle.

"It's not too much of a switch," Hawkinson said. "Footwork is kind of switched from the right side. I'm excited to be where I'm able to contribute."

Hawkinson's contributions have not been lost on his teammates, who voted him as one of KU's three captains this season. Hawkinson was humbled by the honor, and said he is trying to lead more vocally.

"In the past, I wasn't too much of a vocal leader. I kind of picked it up a little bit," he said. "I've kind of had to change my personality somewhat, not too much. Just kind of be more vocal and making sure everybody is doing what they're supposed to do, motivating the guys and what-not."

Hawkinson said the Jayhawks are extremely motivated this year after struggling the past few seasons and hearing all the doubters. Kansas was picked last in the Big 12 preseason media poll.

"We know what type of team we have here and hopefully we can surprise some people," Hawkinson said.

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