It all began with a general conversation between Brian and I one evening last fall, around the time that the football facility became Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium.
There have been more than a few named that have etched themselves in Lion Football coaching history-Smith, Sikes, Vowell, and Carthel, to name a few. There is one name, however, that is synonomus with level of success and class that is Texas A&M-Commerce Football-Ernest Hawkins.
We all know the stories. They have been told here many times. We know the numbers. So why refer to the stadium as “The Hawk”? Well, pull up a chair, so to speak, and I’ll explain.
Most successful programs in college athletics have a cool nickname. In Baton Rouge, the football stadium is known as Death Valley. The basketball arena is known as Pete’s Palace(for the late “Pistol” Pete Maravich). In College Station, it’s Kyle. In Austin, DKR. Lubbock, it’s Jones Stadium. At USC, it’s the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl.
No one figure is more associated with Lion football than Ernest Hawkins. He’s easy to overlook if you’re just noticing numbers. Only one National Championship. A winning record of just over .500. So why? To figure that one out, you don’t have to look too far. In a day where the Wishbone and Veer offenses ruled, and offenses were best described as “three yards and a cloud of dust”, Hawkins relied on a simple, pro style attack that took advantage of whatever he was given. His teams, instead of the grind it out method, were throwing the ball 25-35 times a game.
He was not just recruiting black players to make some sort of social statement, he was recruiting them to win. Color did not matter to Ernest Hawkins-winning did. He didn’t care where you came from or what size program you participated in. The only question was….did you have the talent to contribute to the team, in whatever role you fit into? How can you help us win?
His greatest success, though, was in what his former players achieved long after their playing days were over. Next time you’re in Commerce on a game day, take a look around….notice how many became teachers, businessmen, ministers, doctors, lawyers. Ask any of them, and they’ll tell you…..what and who they are today are due to some very simple lessons they once learned from a slight in stature, mild-mannered coach whose harshest words might have been a stern, “YOUNG MAN!!!”. They were easy to remember-Have a goal. Treat people with respect. Look people in the eye when you shake hands. Attention to detail. Be willing to work hard and pay the price, because nothing great comes without it.
So, there you have it-the story behind The Hawk. And to carry on from a very successful Athletic Department promotion, instead of #seeyouatthegame, hopefully now, it’s #seeyouaththehawk. There won’t be one minute of one athletic event that occurs at that stadium in that little town just about an hour east of Dallas that you won’t think of him, or feel his presence. I know I will. He’ll always be there. In our hearts, and in our minds.
See You At The Hawk-I like the sound of that. It has a ring to it.