Every great team needs role players, and sometimes role players step out of the shadows to do great things.
For the Oregon Ducks, Daryle Hawkins is the consummate role player.
UO's Swiss Army Knife: Since coming to the Ducks in 2009 from Omaha Central High, the 6-4, 202-lb. Hawkins has capably filled a variety of assignments (Bruce Ely, oregonianlive.com photo).
In 2010 as a redshirt freshman, he played quarterback, running back and receiver, running 10 times for 68 yards and a touchdown against New Mexico, catching his first touchdown pass a week later against Portland State.
Then in December he agreed to return to the scout team to simulate Cam Newton for the Oregon defense, an unselfish move that drew praise from defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who told the Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic, "We can't duplicate exactly who Cam Newton is because we don't have a Heisman Trophy player playing quarterback during practice. But we do have a fast guy who's given us as good a look as he possibly can, and that's helped us. He's done a fantastic job."
Hawkins explained simply, "My first reaction was, 'If this is what it's going to take to win, let's do it. I feel honored to have the opportunity. I hope everything I've been practicing as far as giving them a (good) look is going to help me as a quarterback in the future."
He went on to tell the azcentral.com reporter, "Most people don't understand how many pieces go into making a great football team. They say every player is important. I truly believe that. When everybody is working hard and putting forth their best effort, that's what really makes something special."
The Ducks lost that game 22-19 on a last-second field goal, but Hawkins' diligent work had done a great job of preparing the defense, which held the Auburn offense well below their season average, Newton to 22 carries for 64 yards, a 2.9-yards per carry, intercepting him once and forcing a fumble.
Flash forward three years, and #16 is a senior and a full-time slot receiver. Marcus Mariota has his top six receivers returning this year, and Hawkins is one of them, after making 25 catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns last year.
Duck coaches were confident Daryle would contribute last season. He's smart, a good student of film, and a hard worker in practice, singled out by then-offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich as one of the highlights of spring in April 2012. “Everybody always wants to talk about the young guys,” Helfrich said to Oregonian reporter Aaron Fentress. “But the two guys who had the most consistent, best spring were Daryle Hawkins and Blake Stanton.”
Hawkins caught 4 passes for 55 yards in the 2012 Spring Game, including 35-yard touchdown toss from Marcus Mariota. He followed that up with three td catches in the Ducks 12-1, #2-rated season last fall, each one in traffic, each time running his route crisply and taking the ball into hands. He grabbed a 7-yd pass in the first quarter against Arizona in the Ducks' PAC-12 opener, a slant route off play action, shaking off a tackler at the goal line:
Hawkins slipped into the flat at the goal line to gather in a 7-yd scoring pass from Mariota against Colorado:
One of the highlights in Oregon's 62-51 win over USC in The Coliseum last November was Daryle's 14-yard td catch-and-run in the second quarter. He takes in an underneath route and turns upfield, trucking a USC defender at the goal line:
The versatile senior is also a disciplined and effective blocker. In this highlight, he screens off the contain man on the weak side, springing De'Anthony Thomas for a 33-yard touchdown run against Arkansas State:
Throughout his Oregon career, Daryle has done everything that's been asked of him and more. He applies himself on the field, and in the classroom as a Product Design major. He's unfailingly courteous in interviews, mature and well-spoken, as this clip from KVAL reveals:
With Oregon set to pass more in 2013, the reliable and team-oriented senior is likely to get a bigger role in the offense. Another quality fans are sure to like: he's resilient, and doesn't sulk. In his sophomore year in 2011, Hawkins had probably his worst day as a Duck with two untimely drops against Washington. He came back a few weeks later to grab a 25-yard touchdown pass against UCLA in the first PAC-12 Championship Game, a 49-31 win that secured a trip to the Rose Bowl.
It's also an invaluable resource for the coaches to have a player that understands every aspect of the offense, able to fill in in an emergency in a number of spots, and serve as a leader and an example in a group of young receivers. It's impossible not to root for Daryle Hawkins, either as a football player or a person. An interview with Nicole of gridirongirl.com reveals more about his role with the team and his outlook on football and college life.
"I’m definitely looking forward to any changes that we may have on the offense," he said.