Another year, another top-notch senior and major contribution for a local veteran.
This time it’s Matt Hawkins, a 2009 graduate of the Naval Academy who was a member of the Navy swim team before being deployed to Afghanistan. The Navy quarterback has been training with the Army team, working with the Black Knights assistant head coach and head of strength and conditioning Ted Gray, getting his football skills back to where they once were, contributing to Army’s preparations for a tilt with Navy on Friday at noon at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
The conclusion of the Notre Dame game will be followed by the Army-Navy game, meaning the turn-of-the-century rivalry will be going on for two hours this Saturday, 1878, in a contest that has a lot riding on it, from both sides.
“Both teams need this,” Hawkins said. “It’s not only for pride, this is the most important game of the year.”
Hawkins played two seasons of varsity football at Navy before making the switch to football at West Point. After the D-I prep school season at Avery Point was over, the coveted quarterback transferred to the military academy to play football. He says the transition from academy life to military life has gone smoothly so far, and he is thinking about attending law school to be an Army attorney.
“Once I get back and get settled at West Point, I’ll start thinking about that. That’s the next step in my journey,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins spent part of his spring semester at Army and part of his summer at Navy, where he has trained with the Dons and the Black Knights, one day at a time, and has been working with Gray. As a freshman, Hawkins made an immediate impact for the Dons, taking over as quarterback in 2010, helping the Dons to a 5-6 record. Hawkins won the starting job in 2011, and Navy went on to go 10-4. He finished his career as the leading passer in Navy history.
Despite his obvious athleticism, Hawkins has struggled with staying injury-free during his career at the academy. In 2012, he broke his leg in the regular-season finale against Rutgers, but instead of retirement or transferring, he continued his professional football career, earning a scholarship to the University of Richmond, where he has continued his senior career, playing both defense and offense, while accumulating 134 career tackles and four interceptions.
His sole senior season this year at Richmond has included a 3-1 record, which moved him into fifth place on the all-time program chart in receiving yards and fifth in career receptions.
“People always see the statistics that I’ve compiled. Those are cool. I am the only guy in my position with that many touchdowns and 400 yards receiving,” Hawkins said. “I’ve been doing the typical kid stuff with football. I’ve taken pictures with the field goal kicker, I’ve met with the coach. That’s just normal stuff for a kid growing up on the other side of the country that’s just football. But for most kids at Navy and West Point, they don’t get to do that.”
Because the game is being played at FedEx Field, it has created a special and vibrant atmosphere for the Navy-Army game. There are tens of thousands of Army and Navy fans converging on Washington for the weekend, and before Thursday, Hawkins was encouraged by his Facebook fans from around the world.
“I think people will come out and show their pride with their association with Army and Navy. It’s going to be very fun,” Hawkins said.
Click here to learn more about Navy’s push to increase recruiting