Jerald Hawkins watched the NFL draft as a youngster like many other football-playing children – with his father leaning over his shoulder whispering in his ear.
“You’re going to get there one day,” Warren Hawkins would tell his youngest son.
Jerald’s almost there. Warren can’t make it.
Many believe LSU’s former 6-foot-6 offensive tackle will get selected on Day 2 of the NFL draft Friday, when the second and third rounds unfold on ESPN and NFL Network.
Jerald will be watching from his childhood home in the bayou town of Baldwin, about 40 miles southeast of Lafayette. He’ll be surrounding by friends and family.
There will be one noticeable absence.
Warren Hakwins, the prognosticator of his son’s football future, died of a heart attack at the age of 55 in 2012.
“It’s going to be emotional, but I know he’s watching over me,” Jerald said in an interview last week. “He’s been watching me all the way through that time. I know he’d be proud of me.”
They called Warren “Hawk Eye.”
They call his son “Hawk.”
Hawk is nervous these days, but, he adds, “I’m always nervous.”
“I can’t wait,” he said. “Finally, one of my dreams coming true.”
Jerald is one of four former LSU players expected to get drafted on Day 2. Linebacker Deion Jones, many experts believe, will be the first of the Tigers off the board. Defensive back Jalen Mills and offensive lineman Vadal Alexander are projected as late-second, early-third round picks. The same goes for Hawkins.
Barring something unforeseen, LSU won’t have a player drafted in the first round for consecutive years for the first time since 2002-03. Chalk up last year’s first-round absence to a string of ill-timed news.
Offensive tackle La’el Collins was poised to be a Top 10 pick before news leaked days before the draft of his potential involvement in a murder investigation.
This year, LSU won’t have a first-round talent for the first time since 2010.
So what are Jones, Mills, Hawkins and Alexander doing Thursday during the first round?
Jones, at least, is watching it like everyone else.
“Chilling at my house,” said Jones, a New Orleans native who, just last week, flew to Los Angeles for a private workout with the Rams. Jones has also worked out with the Falcons, Lions, Eagles, Vikings and Panthers.
Hawkins is hoping to see friends and former training partners selected Thursday - like Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil and Michigan State’s Jack Cocklin, two 300-pound plus tackles who stand at least 6-5. He trained with both of them in San Diego.
Hawkins is the ninth-best tackle in the draft field, according to CBSSports.com. He’s rated as the 81st overall prospect, landing him in the first half of the third round.
Some like him more than others.
“I think he’s pretty dang close to pro ready,” said Matt Miller, BleacherReport.com’s NFL draft analyst. “He can be a little clunky, a little stiff back, but three years starting in the SEC speaks for itself.”
Hawkins worked out privately for the Eagles, Ravens, Falcons and the Buccaneers, performing drills in front of those scouts inside LSU’s indoor facility. He’s confident about the workouts, especially after a rigorous eight-week training program with EXOS in San Diego. He lived in an apartment across the street from the EXOS facility.
“I believe I got even better, stronger, especially my flexibility of my lower body,” he said.
That’s a point of contention for some – Hawkins’ lower body and hip movement. He possess slimmer hips than most players his size, a disadvantage, according to a report on NFL.com.
“Hawkins is a tough evaluation because the length and footwork in pass protection are promising, but issues with bend and body control may be difficult to correct,” NFL.com’s assessment of Hawkins reads.
He passed the biggest test of the season last year, though.
“Held his own in snaps against A’Shawn Robinson from Alabama,” the same report reads, under pros for Hawkins. Robinson was a consensus All-American last season who’s projected as a top-20 draft pick Thursday.
Hawkins’ name won’t be called for another day, but it will be called – just as “Hawk Eye” predicted years ago.
Warren Hawkins suffered his heart attack on Sept. 3, 2012, two days after he watched LSU beat North Texas 41-14 in a season-opening clash in Tiger Stadium.
“He was at the game Saturday,” Hawkins said. “Talked to him Monday (before practice).”
He died at 11:10 Monday night, passing away at Franklin Foundation Hospital in Franklin. Jerald didn’t play that season, choosing to redshirt as a true freshman after his father’s passing.
“It hit me hard at first, hard to handle,” Jerald said. “I shut down for a month or two.”
He began his march to this point the next year, winning the right tackle job in preseason camp and starting the next 37 of a possible 38 games.
“I finally grew up from it,” he said. “It was motivation for all of those years.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.