"It was a long process rolled into a short one," Hawthorne stated. "I only played my senior year, but I did a lot over the winter. I went to a camp up in Pittsburgh which really helped me get noticed... it did a really good job of getting me on the map.
"Statistically I did pretty good, and I looked at schools that were the best balance for me academically and athletically... also where I would have a chance to play."
That initially led him to accepting an offer from Appalachian State, but in late June NC State extended a walk-on offer and Hawthorne switched to the Wolfpack.
"This was the best opportunity for me," he said. "[App. State] wasn't going to be nearly as good of a situation. They had a fifth-year senior kicker as well, but they had a sophomore or junior on kickoffs so this made the most sense for me.
"Plus, my parents would have to drive three-and-a-half hours every Saturday to see me play so it wasn't going to be worth it."
"Being close to home with my family at every game, I can always call them, talk to them," he added. "It's been really helpful. I've been going home on Friday nights to my old high school games and talking to some of my old coaches. They've been telling me to keep my head down and keeping working and I'll be fine."
Hawthorne could get his chance to contribute this weekend. Wolfpack senior kicker Josh Czajkowski sustained a leg injury late in the Clemson game, and the injury will sideline Czajkowski for the rest of the season. The No. 5 scorer in school history, Czajkowski had made 14-of-18 field goals and 33-of-34 extra points this season. Hawthorne admits that he has learned a lot from the Wolfpack senior during his first few months at NC State.
"Josh is helping me a lot form-wise and telling me routine-wise what I need to do," he said. "He knows the kind of situation I'm in, not having played that long, but he's very experienced and done a great job of guiding me to where I need to be.
"With Josh being a fifth-year senior, this being his last year, it's a shame he can't be out there finishing off Senior Night the way it should be."
Now NC State will turn to Hawthorne, a true freshman they were looking to redshirt, or J. Ellis Flint, a transfer from Hofstra, to handle the kicking duties. Whoever wins the job this week during practice is going to kick for the Wolfpack against Wake Forest.
"The coaches have been telling me to keep doing what I'm doing," said Hawthorne. "I've got a lot better as the year has gone on. My kickoffs have really improved a lot. I was good at kickoffs even in high school, and I'm even better than I was now."
Even if its on kickoffs Hawthorne could become an important contributor for the Pack. NC State controls its own destiny in the Atlantic Division race, and going to Charlotte could come down to special teams play. "The biggest thing was getting my hangtime up," Hawthorne said of his kickoffs. "That's the biggest thing in college... especially in the ACC where you have some really quick returners. If you hit a [3.0-second] kickoff to the goalline it's not going to do anything because they can still run it out.
"The biggest thing is getting it over 3.8 and kicking it as far as you can... getting the rotation right and communicating with your coverage team as to where you're going to kick the ball."