Photos: Wild, wacky, emotional game day ends with victory, LSU coach Les Miles carried off field by players _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins (65) congratulates LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) on his touchdown against Texas A&M.

Jerald Hawkins will miss the Louisiana humidity “a little,” he said during an interview Thursday.

A couple of seconds passed.

“Not really,” the former LSU left tackle said laughing.

Hawkins is leaving Friday for the dry heat of Arizona, where he’ll train for six weeks at a facility with other draft-eligible college players. One of those: Vadal Alexander, Hawkins’ teammate in Baton Rouge the last four years.

Hawkins announced on Twitter on Wednesday evening that he’ll bypass his senior season and enter the draft – one of a reported 78 college underclassmen who have done so this season. Less than 48 hours later, Hawkins will board a place bound for Arizona.

“It’s very surreal right now,” he said Thursday afternoon.

Hawkins’ Arizona training will prepare him for the NFL Combine, set for Feb. 23-29 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He expects an invitation to the combine to come later. After all, Hawkins is projected as a second-round draft pick, according to the most updated rankings from

Hawkins said the opinion from the NFL College Advisory Committee affected his decision. The committee gave him a second-to-fourth round opinion, he said. The committee only hands out grades of first round, second round or remain in school, but the group releases opinions with the grade.

Hawkins made his decision “a few days ago” after meeting with his family. He also spoke to former LSU stars and current NFL players La’el Collins, Trai Turner, Danielle Hunter and Kwon Alexander.

“It’s a gut feeling,” Hawkins said of his decision.

Hawkins’ departure isn’t surprising. He was the most likely of all of the draft-eligible underclassmen to leave early, and many on staff expected him to skip his senior season, The Advocate reported two weeks ago.

He’s the only junior to announce a decision.

He was one of at least six draft-eligible LSU players mulling decisions to enter the draft – a yearly occurrence at the school. Center Ethan Pocic, linebacker Kendell Beckwith, defensive end Lewis Neal, cornerback Tre’Davious White and defensive tackle Christian LaCouture all submitted requests for draft evaluations.

Underclassmen must declare by Jan. 18. By that time, Hawkins will be out in Arizona.

He called Les Miles and coaches Wednesday to deliver the news.

“They were proud and supportive and would be glad with any decision I made,” he said.

Hawkins, a fourth-year junior after redshirting as a freshman, was draft-eligible after the 2014 season. Coaches encouraged Hawkins to return for his junior year, moving him from right to left tackle – the premiere position on the offensive line.

So who will be the new left tackle? K.J. Malone served as Hawkins’ immediate backup during practices, he said. Hawkins also mentioned freshmen Chidi Valentine, who redshirted this season, and Toby Weathersby, who was the line’s No. 6 guy as a rookie in 2015.

“They have a lot of great players,” Hawkins said.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.