While Southern’s offense lined up for its first drive in Saturday’s 34-7 win against Texas Southern, receiver Charles Hawkins was far from the action.
Still hampered by the pulled hamstring that has nagged him since Week 2, Hawkins stood near the end of the sideline, helmet off, looking like he’d be kept off the stat sheet for the third game in a row.
But with the Jaguars facing third-and-12 from their own 4-yard line early in the second quarter, Hawkins got the call and trotted onto the field. He lined up in the left slot, found a soft spot in the defense, and gained 20 yards.
A few plays later, on second-and-13, Hawkins lined up in the left slot again, found another open space, and picked up 13.
Two plays, two tough yardage situations, two catches to move the chains.
“It was big for my confidence level, because when I first came back from injury at practice, I was dropping a lot of balls,” Hawkins said. “That’s going to help me progress later on and for the rest of the season.”
But Hawkins isn’t all the way back. Not yet, anyway.
Expected to be the team’s top playmaker, Hawkins got off to a good start with 80 yards and a touchdown in the season opener at New Mexico. But during a practice before the Mississippi Valley State game, Hawkins ran a route, planted his foot, and felt a pop in his right hamstring.
He missed the next two games, then played sparingly in two more before making an impact Saturday.
Now, Hawkins said, the key is working to strengthen his hamstring, which he said is still “more like 85 percent,” and while he can still push off, the speedster hasn’t yet been able to find the top gear that makes him such a valuable weapon.
Regardless, Southern is thrilled to have him back. He was thrown to four times on that second-quarter drive against TSU, finishing with three catches for 36 yards, and his fellow receivers noticed a difference with Hawkins on the field.
“Hawk really opens the offense up to me,” wideout Mike Berry said. “Having that third guy to throw the ball to, that takes a lot of pressure off me and (Lee Doss).”
It wasn’t the kind of breakout game Hawkins has been looking for, but he’s far from giving up hope that he’ll finish strong, and he’s eager to make up for lost time.
“I feel that way tremendously,” he said. “I just have to go out there and progress, and hopefully the best is yet to come.”
‘Take a kid to the game’
On Saturday, Southern will participate in the “Take a Kid to the Game” program, which provides schools with an opportunity for community outreach and to introduce area kids to collegiate athletics.
SU is partnering with organizations to sponsor local youth who want to attend the 6 p.m. contest against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
A joint promotion of “Church and Nonprofit Day” encourages churches to purchase tickets for their youth groups, the school is applying grant money to sponsor around 40 children from the Big Buddy Program, and another partnership with the Louisiana Youth Sports Network and 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge will send about 150 more to the game.
In all, Southern expects between 600 and 700 area youth to attend, and those interested in sponsoring a group should contact Athletic Director William Broussard at (225) 771-5930.