- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2011

NEWARK, Del. — This time last year, Travis Hawkins was eager to play Navy. If it meant dealing with the Midshipmen’s cut blocks all day, so be it. The Maryland defensive back couldn’t wait to put a redshirt season in the past and return to the field.

This month, Hawkins is again eager for his first game. And again, it’s against Navy. Only this time, he’s at Delaware and prepared to embrace the opportunity to become a college football star that didn’t immediately materialize in his first stop.

Hawkins is set to start at cornerback and kickoff return this year with a high-profile program in the former Division I-AA. And it can’t come fast enough.

“His heart has been pumping football since he was too little to think about football,” said Terrence Hawkins, Travis‘ older brother.

Indeed, Travis Hawkins looked like a sure star when he chose Maryland over Oregon after a strong career at Montgomery County’s Quince Orchard High School. Comfortable with the physical aspects of safety - his Twitter handle, HawkHitLikeDawk, is a nod to eight-time Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins — he was recruited as a cornerback.

He switched back to safety as a redshirt freshman but appeared in only eight games and made two tackles. Nearly all of his work came on special teams while Maryland deployed one of the ACC’s best safety tandems in Antwine Perez and Kenny Tate.

“That got to me a lot,” Hawkins said. “I felt like I should have been given a chance just to be able to go out there and show what I can do. I felt like in the spring [of 2010], I got my chance. In the Maryland spring game last year, I did very well and I thought I was going to get a chance to show what I can do in the game, but I never got the chance. When my time came on special teams, I made the most of it.”

A change of command in College Park didn’t make matters better. A disagreement with new coach Randy Edsall ended his time at Maryland, and soon he heard from former high school teammate Cody Magill. The sophomore tight end urged Hawkins to consider Delaware, a place where he could play immediately.

Two years of frustration were put to an end as he drove north on I-95 six months ago.

“Got here on my birthday, Feb. 18,” Hawkins said earlier this month. “Great birthday present.”

Not to mention a welcome gift for the Blue Hens.

Delaware, which was the runner-up in the former Division I-AA in 2010, lost its entire secondary from a year ago. It’s created an ideal opportunity for Hawkins, whose team opens its season Sept. 3 at Navy.

While the Blue Hens take a handful of transfers most seasons, coach K.C. Keeler said his program usually is selective about who it adds. Yet with recommendations from Magill and former Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown and the comfort of knowing Hawkins would be eligible for three more years, Keeler was eager to add the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder.

“Talking to the guys at Maryland, they wish Travis had a little more patience,” Keeler said. “Sometimes, when you’re a big-time recruit and there’s a number of talented guys at your position, sometimes you don’t have the patience you need to have. That was a benefit for us because we think he’ll be a pretty good player.”

And quickly, too.

Like he did at Maryland a year ago, Hawkins thrived in Delaware’s spring game, returning an interception for a touchdown. A starting job is his for the first time in three years, and Hawkins is savoring the possibility of feeling exhausted at the end of each game this fall.

“Since he was 8 years old and playing in pads, he never sat out,” Terrence Hawkins said. “Being at Maryland and not getting the time on the field, I’m not saying he was a sore loser or anything, but I know it drove him crazy.”

Not anymore. Travis Hawkins hopes a large contingent will be on hand early next month when he returns to his home state to begin a promising second chapter in his college career.

“I’m anxious to get out there this year, just to see where I’m at,” Travis Hawkins said. “This Navy game hopefully will be a big game for me, either special teams, running kickoffs back or playing a huge role on the defense making a lot of tackles.”

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