Hawkins putting mono behind him

When Jason Hawkins signed with Ole Miss in December, he was a strapping 255-pound tight end ready to come to Oxford and make an immediate mark on the Rebel football team. Sometimes things don't work out the way they are planned. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss Tight End Jason Hawkins had visions of joining the Rebel football team as an immediate impact player.

And why not? At a reported 6-3 255 pounds and with JUCO All-American honors under his belt, there was no reason for him to believe otherwise.

He was also excited, as a mid-semester signee from San Bernardino Valley CC in California, about getting a jump in the learning process by being on the Ole Miss campus during the offseason and spring training.

As the saying goes, the best laid plans. . .

Shortly after arriving on campus in mid-January, Hawkins discovered he had contracted mononucleosis after going through four days of the offseason program and realizing "something was very different and very wrong with me."

"I lost my appetite and my energy. I couldn't work out or run and I wasn't eating much," said Hawkins. "I was very weak."

The end result was that Hawkins not only lost the benefits of the offseason strength and conditioning program, he lost 26 pounds off his 255-pound frame.

"I got down to 229 pounds and lost any edge I might have had when I got here," he commented, shaking his head.

He took the setback in stride, knowing time would take care of the illness, but he knew the lost time could not be made up quickly.

"I'm fine now, health-wise, but I'm not as strong as I was and not in real good condition," he explained, five days into spring training. "On the plus side, I've gained back six pounds of the weight I lost and I feel like my old self again in terms of energy. I'm now 235 pounds and climbing. Hopefully by mid-summer I will be back to 250-255 pounds."

Jason is also pleased with his adjustment to Oxford and Ole Miss, socially.

"I had to get used to the slower pace. Everything moves so fast in California and your mind gets tuned into that pace. Here, things are more laid back - except the football parts," he laughed. "The lifestyle is slower, but the pace in this football program is a lot faster and more intense than junior college or anything I've ever been through.

"I have made the lifestyle adjustment because I have family in Texas and have visited them in the past. It's slower there too, so Oxford was no great shock to my system. In fact, after I slowed down a little, I'm finding I really enjoy the way things are here."

The mono put Hawkins behind the eight ball a little in football, but he's accepted his plight and is trying to move forward with a positive outlook.

"I can see where I fit in here. I like the offense a lot because the coaching staff likes to use the tight end. It's similar to the offense we had in junior college," said Hawkins, who caught 28 passes for 420 yards last season at SBVCC. "Also, the techniques are similar to those I have been taught before. I'm excited about what's happening on offense and at the tight end position."

With converted QB Robert Lane now at tight end, a rejuventated Lawrence Lilly stepping up his game and Robert Hough being involved in the tight end package, Hawkins is trying to find his place in the pecking order, but he's patient in his quest.

"Due to my sickness, I'm not making the impact I wanted to so I've dedicated myself to learning and getting the system down. There are three experienced players in front of me who are doing a good job," he allowed. "I will just have to work hard and see where that takes me."

He says he's been accepted into the tight end group and likes the treatment he's getting as the new guy on the block.

"We all help each other. I'm part of the tight end group and have been accepted. We get along great and Coach (Hugh) Freeze has been very fair to all of us," he noted. "I like this unit because we all have a different style. Lilly is the veteran who knows a lot of the crafty moves to use at tight end. Robert can do it all - he's like an H-back. Hough is fast and can block. I'd like to think I can do a little bit of it all, but I have to go out there and prove it."

Hawkins' goal for spring is to just keep plugging along.

"My sites are set on working on techniques and the mental aspects of playing tight end in this system," he closed. "What I want to do is to get to the point where I'm just playing. Get to the point where I know the offense and I'm not tyring to impress the coaches. Just play the way I know I can. When everything becomes second nature to me, and I get my weight and strength back, I will be fine and I will fit in somewhere in this tight end group."

OM Spirit Top Stories