NEW ORLEANS — There were times this season when Southern University’s senior receiver Charles Hawkins wondered if he would be on the field when the Jaguars squared off with Grambling for the 39th annual Bayou Classic.
Saturday afternoon, Hawkins made sure everyone knew where he was as he helped Southern defeat Grambling 38-33 to break a four-game losing streak to the Tigers.
Hawkins caught six passes for 99 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. His two second-quarter scores helped Southern rally from a 14-7 first-quarter deficit to a 21-17 halftime lead. His third score gave the Jaguars a 28-20 lead entering the fourth.
“I did (have doubts), but I persevered,” said Hawkins, who injured his hamstring against New Mexico in the first game of the season. “I kept dreaming, I kept thinking, and I worked hard. I made sure I went to rehab every day.”
A week after the game at New Mexico, Hawkins was dealt a personal blow when his 19-year-old cousin, Darren Brown of New Orleans, was shot and killed. Hawkins dedicated the season to Brown and his memory, and had family and friends on hand to see him finish with a flourish against Grambling.
“This whole season was very emotional for me,” said Hawkins, who prepped at St. Augustine High. “I lost my cousin, I pulled my hamstring, but the last two games of my senior career I scored five touchdowns, and went out with a bang.
“This win in the Bayou Classic is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”
As has happened at times this season, Southern began slowly falling behind 14-0 to Grambling before revving up its offense. Junior receiver Lee Doss said the Jaguars’ receivers kept the faith on the sideline.
“We had three drops by three key receivers — me, Charles and Mike Berry — and we knew we had to keep our head in the game,” said Doss, who caught seven passes for 80 yards and a score.
“Me and Charles sat down the night before, and I told him I don’t care if you score three or four times with 500 yards receiving, I just want to get the win. You do what you’ve got to do, and I’ll do what I’ve got to do.”
All Hawkins did was turn in one of his most productive days as a Jaguar. Of Hawkins six catches, three went for touchdowns, while the other three netted first downs for Southern.
Least likely of Hawkins touchdown grabs was his second, which came with 5:25 left in the first half. Facing a second-and-9 at the Grambling 17, Joseph threw for Hawkins down the right sideline. Grambling defensive back Edward Patterson stepped in front of the pass, but the ball hit his shoulder pads and bounced over to Hawkins.
“That’s my best buddy,’ Joseph said of Hawkins. “It means a lot for me just being able to throw him three touchdowns, and leave him with a successful game as a senior.”
It was success that Hawkins said Southern interim coach Dawson Odums predicted would be there for the Jaguars’ taking.
“Coach Odums said he didn’t know how, but the opportunity was going to present itself to win this game,” Hawkins said. “That’s what we did. It’s a beautiful feeling.”
It’s the feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes when you play your best and end your biggest rival’s four-game winning streak in the Bayou Classic.
“I was only a part of one of (those losses),” Doss said. “But when you’re part of a team, you feel like family, and I felt like I had lost to them four times, too. I felt like we had to come out here and get a win.”
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