So take me back to the Texas game. What do you remember about it?
Hawthorne: I had an eerie feeling before the game. It sounds crazy, because no one knew what was about to happen. But I had a weird feeling, like man, I hope I don't have to go in there at all. I was thinking, what if Chris [Johnson, Baylor's last healthy scholarship quarterback] gets his helmet knocked off. And I kept on going back to the fact that I hadn’t watched film at all the entire week. And I don't even know what some of the calls are. Every week we kind of change stuff up, so [opponents] can’t watch film and see what our hand signals are. And of course, he gets hit pretty hard. But I’m thinking, well, he’s 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, that’s not enough. Then he's still on the ground. And I look to the my right and I see [injured QB] Seth [Russell]. Then I looked to my left and I see [linebacker] Kendall [Ehrlich] and [receiver] Levi Norwood, and they're looking at me. And I look out on the field and Chris is still on the ground. And I’m like, 'Oh my God.'
So you didn’t watch any film as a quarterback, is that what you meant?
Hawthorne: They really wanted to focus on Chris. Me and [walk-on Zack Bennema] were splitting reps with the 2s. For the most part, I was taking all the runs, and he was doing all of the throwing. Coach KB [Kendal Briles] really wanted to focus on Chris that week. So I didn’t watch film at all that week. The week of Oklahoma State and TCU, I had watched film as a quarterback in the background, and didn't really know what they were talking about half the time. But that was the only time I'd watched film with them. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have known [much] if I had watched film. They really do speak a different language in the [quarterbacks room]. I was just hoping Chris would stay healthy. That didn’t happen.
So how nervous are you when you get out there?
Hawthorne: So I get out there, and [running back] Shock [Linwood] is in the backfield. The first play was called. … I remember asking, 'Uh, am I handing [off]?' He was like, 'Yeah, you’re handing this.' So I hand off. Then the next play they call, it was something else. I was like, 'Uh, am I handing this one, too?' He was like, no, 'You’re pulling this one.' I’m like, 'I’m pulling? Which way am I going?' He’s like, 'You’re going to the left.' So I pull that one and I gain 17 yards. Then the next play, whatever, throw it to Corey [Coleman] kinda deal. And I’m like, 'Holy crap, I’m about to throw the ball to Corey.' So I step back and throw it up in the air. And it was a nice spiral. I remember thinking, 'Oh man, that’s a pretty nice little throw there.' Then all of a sudden all these white jerseys closed in on it. [Texas’ Duke Thomas] picks it off, and starts juking everyone. I went up to the sidelines. … I grab him and kinda slam him on his head. Then a fight breaks out. It was the craziest stuff happening [to me] all in a span of a couple of plays. Next thing I know, I’m walking off the field, the entire team is storming the field. And Coach [Art] Briles and Coach KB are looking at me shaking their heads, and I’m like, 'What have I gotten myself into?'
But then you found your groove in the second half, right?
Hawthorne: In the fourth quarter, I was thinking, 'We’re about to win this thing.' The offensive line was a serious catalyst. They got things going. I was running well, Johnny [Jefferson] was running well. I was completing a lot of those short passes. We did everything we could. But my interceptions and a lot of stupid plays I have, you take those away and we probably win that game, we go to the Sugar Bowl. But everything happens for a reason. That prepared me for that [bowl victory over North Carolina, in which Hawthorne had 63 rushing yards and a TD].
So after all this, you have a new respect for quarterbacks, huh?
Hawthorne: No doubt. It’s a different game out there. You got cornerbacks and occasionally safeties tackling you when you’re at receiver. But quarterback, there are guys out there, their actual job is to hurt you. By the time I got in the game [vs. Texas], they had done a pretty good job of that. Going to the bowl game, I remember telling the equipment managers to get me extra padding. I got some rib protectors. After the UT game, I could not move my neck, my back -- everything was completely stiff. I had bruises up and down. You’re not used to getting hit by a 300-pound man. I called [former Baylor QB Bryce] Petty after the [Texas] game. I used to give him crap all the time, 'You’re just a quarterback, you don't even get hit, why do you even work out.' I called him, and I was like, 'Dude, I will never say anything bad about quarterbacks ever again.'