By Chadd Cripe
Senior Julian Hawkins is the quiet leader and feel-good story of the Broncos’ wide receiver corps.
Hawkins, who was academically ineligible in 2005 and couldn’t participate in fall camp that year, expects to earn his communications degree next month. He is fourth on the team with 19 catches for 229 yards and the first two touchdowns of his career.
Last week, he used a stiff arm to create a 46-yard reception — the longest catch of his career, topping a 42-yarder on his first college play in 2006.
“It’s been a definite learning experience,” Hawkins said. “You learn about yourself, you learn about what it takes to succeed in life, what it means to be a team player. … If you stick it out, you’ll get your due.”
Hawkins takes on some not-so-glamorous roles. He is a popular target on third downs over the middle, when he’s certain to take a hit. And he often is used as a blocker in the run game.
“He does a lot of things that go unnoticed,” coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s very smart, we can move him around. He’s a big target down the middle and he can block well.”
Hawkins started his career as a tight end but moved to wide receiver in December 2006. He blossomed last year, when he had 23 catches for 208 yards. And this year, he has emerged as a leader.
“I try to just go out and lead by example,” he said. “I’m not too much of a rah-rah guy. I’m not in players’ faces when they mess up. I try to be there for everybody. I’m that guy everybody can talk to. … And then, at the end of the day, I want to see people do well.”