AUSTIN, Texas - - Junior College offensive tackle Donald Hawkins (Senatobia, Miss./Northwest Mississippi Community College) has hinted that he'd become Texas' 22nd commit for 2012 over the past few days via social media and through text messages with HornsNation.
On Wednesday, he made it a reality.
Hawkins, who stands 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, gave his verbal pledge while Texas offensive line coach Stacy Searels was at his school for a visit.
"I told coach a couple of days back that I was thinking about committing," Hawkins said. "To be honest, I just needed the best opportunity for me to succeed on and off the field, and that's at Texas. Not because of the football, but there are so many celebrities and business people there in Austin that can help me if I am not able to go to the NFL. Basically, I can have a life beyond football. I just want the best around me."
Hawkins has been working hard to make sure that he is able to graduate in time to enroll in January. He will have three years remaining to play two.
"No one knows that I have committed as of right now so later tonight I am sure it will hit me that I am a Longhorn," Hawkins said.
It marks the end of the Longhorns pursuit of a player they've been chasing for the past two months, when Searels attended Hawkins' game on Oct. 22 and offered him a scholarship.
At that time, Hawkins, a left tackle for NMCC, was still committed to Oklahoma State. But Texas managed to do enough persuading over the next 46 days to get him to change his mind.
The pendulum really swung in the Longhorns' favor once they got him to take an official visit on Nov. 19, the weekend they played Kansas State. Despite the outcome, a 17-13 loss, Texas came out in good standing with the confident big man because of the hospitality he received from both the coaching staff and current players.
Hawkins spent 30 minutes in Mack Brown's office where he said Brown expressed Texas' need for a seasoned lineman who could come in right away and play.
"He said that I was a junior college guy and that he didn't recruit junior college guys," Hawkins said. "He told me he needed someone to come in and make an immediate impact. He told it to me straight."
He was also taken aback by the sincere nature of Texas' offensive lineman.
"What I didn't expect was the players to show me so much hospitality," Hawkins said. "I would have thought that me being a junior college guy, that the offensive line wouldn't like me, because I was going to come in and compete for a starting position. But the guys embraced me. They said they wanted me here and that I could make the team better. That meant a lot to me."
Even though Hawkins made an unofficial visit to Auburn for its game against Alabama on Nov. 26, it still appeared to be a two-team race between Oklahoma State and Texas. When he cancelled his official visit to Oklahoma State for its games against Oklahoma, and de-committed from the Cowboys on Dec. 1, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before he became a Longhorn.
He is the second former Oklahoma State commitment to commit to the Longhorns in the past week, joining wide receiver Kendall Sanders (Athens, Texas/Athens), who committed to Texas on Friday.
Hawkins is the fourth offensive lineman in Texas' top-ranked class. He joins Under Armour All-Americans Kennedy Estelle (Pearland, Texas/Dawson) and Curtis Riser (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto), and Camrhon Hughes (Harker Heights, Texas/Harker Heights).
He was named a Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges First Team All-State member this season by anchoring a line that surrendered just four sacks in 648 plays from the line of scrimmage.
Given that experience, Hawkins should be in line for early playing time next season, even though Texas will return both starting tackles in freshman left tackle Josh Cochran and sophomore right tackle Trey Hopkins. Sophomore Paden Kelley and senior Tray Allen are listed as backups on the two-deep depth chart.
The only starting lineman Texas will lose is senior left guard David Snow. Searels demonstrated during fall practice that he isn't afraid to mix and match linemen to find the best fit, further enhancing Hawkins' chances at playing.
"If I couldn't come in and play right away, I wouldn't have committed," Hawkins said.
The Longhorns seldom go after JUCO players, so their pursuit of Hawkins obviously means they think highly of him and are in need of his help. He couldn't come at a better time either, with Texas' uncertainty at quarterback and probable reliance on a running game that will be boosted by 2012 commit Johnathan Gray, the nation's top running back.
"I want to practice with the best and want the best offensive linemen coming with me," Hawkins said. "At the end of the day you want to be the best team in the league. I think we have four or five top receivers coming in and that running back [Gray]. Hopefully by me coming in and helping, we can do big things."
Now that Hawkins is on board he said he will go to work on trying to add the finishing touches to this class.
"Hopefully I can get DGB to come join me," said Hawkins of Dorial Green-Beckham, the nation's top receiver who was in town the same weekend for an official visit.
William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation
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