(Author’s Note: I have tried on multiple occasions to get Coach Hawkins nominated for inclusion into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame without success. I have reached out to AD Tim McMurray, who also has had no luck. Thank you, sir. What follows is from the heart.)
To Whom It May Concern:
I represent a group of former players, coaches, supporters, and alumni of Texas A&M-Commerce(Formerly known as East Texas State University)to address a glaring omission in those you have chosen to honor.
Much to your surprise, there are successful programs outside of the old Southwest Conference/Big 12 schools. One of which is the Lone Star Conference. It included, among others, such schools as East Texas State, Texas A&I, Howard Payne, Angelo State, Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian. It has produced many NFL greats, some of which are honored in your hall.
The one that you may not be aware of, and my guess, judging from your lack of response to repeated emails and phone calls, not only from myself, but from officials with Texas A&M-Commerce, is Ernest Hawkins. This is a travesty, and I’ll gladly explain why.
Ernest Hawkins took over in a time of exclusion. Blacks and whites didn’t go to schools together, stay in the same hotels, have dinner together, nor were their children allowed to play together. He came in, and started recruiting black players not to make a social statement, but to win. He made them stars both on the field and in life.
It would be easy to over look a rather pedestrian 132-92-6 record. Look a little further, and a record like that when facing such great players as Darrell Green, Durwood Roquemore, Gene Upshaw, Wilbert Montgomery, and so many more from arguably the best small college conference in the country, and you’ll look a little differently.
He produced some of the best NFL talent ever. Dwight White, a founding member of the Pittsburgh Steelers Steel Curtain. Harvey Martin, Super Bowl XII Co-MVP, and if quarterback sacks had been an official statistic in 1977, would hold the single season record of 23. In a fourteen game season. Sam Walton, a starter for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. And it wasn’t just linemen. Ernest Hawkins was a quarterback guru. Sam McCord was an early star for the Oakland Raiders. Will Cureton started for the Cleveland Browns. Wade Wilson won a Super Bowl ring with the Dallas Cowboys, and had not only a successful 18 year NFL career, but has been a much sought after quarterback coach in the NFL. He was instrumental in developing the current Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott. Kyle Mackey saw success in the NFL, and now is a successful coach in the Texas High School system. There are many, many more success stories, some you have heard of, whether you want to admit it or not, and some you haven’t.
In a time where offenses in the state of Texas, both at the high school and college level were dominated by the Wishbone T and the Houston Veer, and were generously described as “three yards and a cloud of dust”, Hawkins was different. Whereas, the sainted Darrell Royal once described the results of throwing the football as “three things, and two of them are bad.”, Ernest Hawkins was different. Quarterbacks called their own plays. His simple, pro style system took advantage of whatever was given by the defense, and were throwing the ball 20-30, sometimes even 40 times a game. Rather conservative by today’s standards, but during that time, was leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else.
While his coaching career might have come to a stop, Hawkins didn’t. He was a constant presence in and around campus, and the best ambassador and recruiter a school could have. Former players will tell you to a man the influence that Coach Hawkins had on them, not only as an athlete, but as a man.
This state has a rich and storied tradition of football excellence. It’s long past time for those of you in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame to open your eyes to greatness that exists beyond the Divison I schools. To notice the contributions and standards of excellence set by people like Ernest Hawkins, and include him in the Hall.
It’s never too late to do the right thing.
PostScript: The address for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame is:
Texas Sports Hall of Fame
1108 S. University Parks Drive
Waco, Texas 76706
Please feel free to forward this letter if you wish, and write your own. Let’s see if we can’t flood their inbox with as much support as we can.