Today is July 19, 2019, which means we are officially just 43 days away from the Virginia Tech Hokies opening the college football season at Boston College. Yesterday, we profiled former running back Terry Smoot, who, at one time was Virginia Tech’s all-time leading rusher.
For No. 43, we start a run of some great Hokie linebackers with Michael Hawkes.
Hawkes arrived in Blacksburg in 1995 as a two-star recruit out of Nottoway High in Nottoway, Va. Not even ranked as one of the top 25 players in the state of Virginia, Hawkes redshirted his first season.
The 6’1”, 218-pound Hawkes played in eight games during his redshirt freshman season of 1996. He played mostly on special teams, making four tackles. Like most Hokie defenders who end up becoming starters, special teams is usually where they first made their name and Hawkes was no different.
His role increased in 1997, becoming the primary backup inside linebacker and he played in every game. He continued his role on special teams and finished the season with 20 tackles, including two TFLs and a sack.
In 1998, Hawkes moved into the starting lineup. He played in every game, starting all but one and finished fourth on the team in tackles with 79. Hawkes proved to be a versatile linebacker for Bud Foster as he had 5.5 sacks and three interceptions during his junior season.
In his senior season of 1999, Hawkes again was the starter at mike linebacker for the Hokies. We’ve talked at length about how good that defense was and Hawkes was another major reason why. He finished fifth on the team in tackles and recorded three sacks and two more interceptions. Every player on that 1999 defense was special and the former two-star recruit had grown into a 6’1”, 240-pound NFL prospect.
Hawkes went undrafted but signed as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers. He would spend parts of two seasons with Carolina before also spending some time on the rosters of the St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys. He was out of the NFL after the 2003 season.
Hawkes is yet another example of how the Hokies were among the best in the nation at evaluating and developing talent. It’s why Virginia Tech became a national presence in the 90s. The Hokies would find lower-rated guys with talent who worked hard and turned them into key starters.
Hats off to Michael Hawkes who had an outstanding career for Virginia Tech.