When the decision was made by the Bengals to keep Andrew Hawkins over Jordan Shipley this offseason, it was met with hesitation from fans. Shipley was a fan favorite and most were pulling for him to recover from a knee injury that he incurred the previous year. On top of that, no one exactly knew just what the team had in Hawkins, as the sample size they had to go on was small from 2011.
In the first three games of the season, Hawkins has made at least one big play each game. He's scored a long touchdown reception in the past two games against the Redskins and Browns, respectively. In short, Hawkins is quickly becoming one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, being mentioned with the likes of Victor Cruz and Wes Welker.
In case you didn't know, Hawkins' road with the Bengals is a true rags to riches story. Previously cut by the Rams after a stint in the Canadian Football League, Hawkins now finally has a home. Let's also not forget that Hawkins was a finalist on Michael Irvin's reality TV show called Fourth-and-Long, though lost out on the competition. It's been a strange journey for the receiver.
Recently, Clark Judge of of CBSSports sat down with Hawkins to talk about this road and Judge came away impressed.
For Hawkins, it's all too good to be true. He grew up a Bengals fan and his brother, Artrell, was a starting cornerback for the club. He worked hard to get where he was, but sometimes wasn't sure what he was working for. So, as a practicing Christian, he prayed, and his prayers were answered.
So, for that matter, were the Bengals' prayers.
"There were difficult times," Hawkins said, "when I didn't know what was going to transpire. My thing was to just keep working out, though I didn't know what I was working out for. But [I'd tell myself] I just want to do this so I'm going to keep working and hope something happens. You hope for so much more, but God puts you through things for a reason. I'm just happy everything happened the way it did."
Along the same lines of facing difficulties and staying true to his Christian faith, Hawkins says he used/uses former quarterback Kurt Warner as an example. If you were to find an NFL player to look up to, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better one than that of Warner.
Judge then posed the question of if Hawkins was looking to go out on the field and prove his doubters wrong.
"Not really," he said. "I take a little different approach. After I lost Michael Irvin's Fourth-and-Long competition, a former coach told me, 'You fight so hard that my only advice to you would be: Don't spend all your time trying to prove people wrong. No matter what, it's not going to be good enough. You're trying to prove people who really don't care about you anyway. So just work hard for yourself and enjoy it.'
"So that's the approach I've taken, and it's made a world of difference in my career. ... I admit there were a lot of times when I didn't think where I am now would be possible. But I'm a spiritual guy, and I just believed that, if I put the work in, God would work out a plan for me. I didn't know how it was going to happen. I didn't know what was going to happen. For whatever reason, something just kept me believing it, and I'm glad I did."
It really is an amazing attitude to have, given the ups and downs of his football career. There is still a lot left in this NFL season and there are going to be many more opportunities for Hawkins to make his share of plays. If you're worried that Hawkins is going to lose his perspective or his drive, we'll leave with this nugget:
"I literally thank God every day for what I'm doing right now," Hawkins said. "I wouldn't change the way I got here at all. It taught me so much. It made me a better person and a better man. I'm just so thankful for where I am, and I wake up every day and thank God for it."