Hard Work And Patience Pay Off For Hawkinson

Sept. 2, 2009

LAWRENCE, Kan. Rewind back to Tanner Hawkinson’s senior year in high school and all arrows were pointing to the upside he had at the tight end position. The McPherson, Kan., product was one of three tight ends that the University of Kansas signed in the 2007-08 recruiting class, a class that also included sophomore Tim Biere and redshirt freshman Nick Plato.

Hawkinson said it was the only position he saw for himself in the future.

“During recruiting, I had been thinking I’m going to go there and play tight end all the way, but I guess you never know what’s going to happen,” Hawkinson said.

Fast-forward to this past spring and Hawkinson had already made a switch to the defensive side of the ball at the defensive end position. His encounter in the weight room with Joe Vaughn, former center and current Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, may have sparked the second position change while at KU.

“(Vaughn) came up to me and kind of ran me through a couple of pass sets and offensive line drills and was nodding his head and stuff,” Hawkinson said.

Offensive line coach John Reagan was next in the line of coaches asking Hawkinson if he would be interested in a switch to left tackle. Finally, Coach Mangino called him in, gave him time to think about it and within a week Hawkinson told Coach Reagan he would be ready to do it.

Hawkinson had somewhat of an idea of what the coaches saw in his style of play to make the switch.

“I’m pretty athletic for the offensive line position, but I think they were looking for a guy that was able to do what they were asking for as far as pass blocking, competing, and quickness,” Hawkinson said.

Mangino said he always had an idea in the back of his mind that Hawkinson would be best suited as an offensive tackle.

“He is a talented young guy and to be honest, we moved him to defense last year out of necessity,” Mangino said.

Anticipating the road ahead of him, Hawkinson knew where he had to be physically prior to the start of training camp.

“I was around 260 lbs. during the spring and I saw on a sheet that my target weight was about 290 and didn’t know if I would be able to get up to that,” Hawkinson said. “I just had to eat quite a bit and lift a lot over the summer, but it’s a little easier now.”

Mangino’s success in transforming tight ends to offensive tackles doesn’t start with Hawkinson. At KU and Kansas State, Mangino transformed both Adrian Jones and Todd Weiner into outstanding offensive tackles, where they also went on to play offensive line in the NFL.

“Obviously the coaches have been around the game for quite some time and they can see in players certain abilities that would transfer over well into different positions, so that helped with my case,” Hawkinson said.

A smile of confidence emerged from Hawkinson speaking about the recently updated depth chart that placed him as the starting left tackle before this Saturday’s season opener against Northern Colorado.

Mangino also saw the confidence that Hawkinson has been building with his position change.

“He has embraced it and sees himself getting better every day,” Mangino said. “When kids see themselves getting better, the enthusiasm grows.”

The anticipation continues to grow for Hawkinson. Hawkinson will see his first action on the field at Memorial Stadium, after red-shirting last season and working with the scout team on defense.

“A lot of guys have to go through the scout team phase, but it’s great knowing that you’re going to be able to contribute on Saturdays,” Hawkinson said. “I’ve always dreamed about playing here so it will be nice to finally do that.

No. 25 Kansas will open the season hosting Northern Colorado on Saturday, Sep. 5 at 6 p.m.