Lost amidst the reporting of the dismissal of Maurice Carthon and the injury to Gary Baxter has been two acquisitions by the Browns in recent days.
To replace Baxter, the Browns grabbed DB Michael Hawkins, a former fifth-round draft pick by the Packers who has taken an unusual route to the NFL. His story might remind some Browns fans of one-time local fascination RB Ben Gay.
A player with amazing natural ability, Hawkins had dealt with an incredibly difficult childhood before finding an environment where he could turn his life around.
Hawkins discusses his youth in a 2002 interview with SoonersIllustrated.com (available for OBR subscribers) conducted when he was a freshman in 2002.
Once able to compete in organized sports, Hawkins quickly emerged as one of the top high school defensive back prospects in the country, and was named to a number of Top 10 recruiting lists.
In 2002, Hawkins played a handful of games in college football as a true freshman defensive back for Oklahoma. He made a quick impression by making an interception and returning it 45 yards for a touchdown against UTEP in October 2002.
Part of the way through the season, Hawkins was kicked off the team for unspecified disciplinary reasons and again disappeared from view.
Through an unlikely route, an open tryout for the AFL Dallas Desperados, Hawkins began his professional football career. Quickly plucking him out of the candidates who came in off the street, the Desperados signed Hawkins began to a contract in December 2003, and the defensive back played in the AFL in 2004.
Catching the attention of the Packers, Green Bay picked the still-raw prospect in the 2005 draft, and assumed he would soon challenge Ahmad Carroll for the starting job at cornerback. Hawkins played a number of games as the Packers nickel back, but was slowed by nagging injuries throughout the season.
An NFL source contacted by the OBR told us that "I'm impressed the Browns picked him up, actually. He's a solid prospect with good size and above-average speed".
The OBR had recently reported in Ask the Insiders that the Browns had worked out Hawkins on October 11th. Our complete workout list is still posted in the forum.
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Keith was actually the first undrafted free agent the OBR reported this year when the team signed him on April 30th. When rookie mini-camp opened, however, Keith was nowhere to be seen. We reported on May 14th that "It turns out that Keith flunked the team's physical because he had injured his wrist playing basketball a few weeks before".
Wrist now healed, Keith gets another chance to impress the Browns coaching staff with what he can do.
Here is our pre-draft profile on Keith:
Ht: 6-4.5 Wt: 237 40: 4.83 Year: 5Sr
Bio: Former Minnesota transfer who posted 46.5/20/8.5 as a senior, also intercepting one pass and breaking up seven more. All-Conference selection as a senior. Junior totals included 41/7/3.
Pos: Explosive, high-motor defender who displays tremendous range and playing speed. Quick off the snap, immediately changes direction and plays with good pad level. Fast off the edge, pursues from the backside with speed, and is effective dropping off the line into coverage.
Neg: Under-sized out of a three-point stance and is slow shedding blocks.
Analysis: One of the more underrated defenders in the nation, Keith elevated his game as a senior and has potential as a pass-rushing end or stand-up linebacker in a 34 scheme.