JMU’s Hawkins inspired by father

JMU's Kyre Hawkins makes a tackle against Delaware last season. Photo courtesy/JMU Athletics Communications.

HARRISONBURG — Kyre Hawkins doesn’t have to look very far when he needs some inspiration or motivation. The James Madison University redshirt senior linebacker said his father has always played a huge role in his love for the game of football.

Hawkins said his father played football in high school and coached him in Pop Warner Youth Football Leagues growing up.

“I’d say everything that I have done on the field, it’s definitely (because of) my father,” Hawkins said. “He’s taught me a lot. He pushes me every single day. And he always is on me making sure that I’m not getting complacent.

“Without him being there for me I don’t think I’d be half the player that I am now.”

Hawkins said his dad has coached Pop Warner football in  Baltimore for a number of years and is very well-known in the Baltimore community.

Since his dad played  linebacker in high school, Hawkins said he always wanted to play the position as well.

“My dad was a linebacker back in his day so he really instilled that physical mentality in me and made me work hard,” Hawkins said. “Because I was never the biggest or the strongest or the fastest guy on the field. But I had that mentality that I was a linebacker, really because of my father. He instilled that in me.”

Hawkins said he played at linebacker in high school. In his senior year of high school, Hawkins helped Dunbar High School in Baltimore to a state championship.

He said that it was a great experience being part of the program and winning a state title.

“It’s a lot like JMU,” Hawkins said. “We have a brotherhood and a family when you step into that locker room. That’s probably why we were so successful that year.”

Hawkins has made an impact at JMU during his career.

In his redshirt freshman season, Hawkins started all 13 games at linebacker. He led the team with 97 tackles, including 13 in a game at Stony Brook.

He followed that up with another strong redshirt sophomore season. He again led the team in tackles with 95 and started in 11 of the 12 contests.

Hawkins said he was a little concerned in his redshirt freshman season, because he hadn’t played in a live game in a while. He said once the season started things just fell into place for him.

“Once I got into the rhythm and I got comfortable in the system I felt like I was on a roll,” Hawkins said. “So I just tried to keep that going each week and I kept setting a standard for myself to keep playing on.”

Last year Hawkins played in all 15 games and finished with 37 tackles.

While statistically it wasn’t his best season, he said winning the Football Championship Subdivision national championship was something he’ll always remember.

“That run was something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” Hawkins said. “And it was a great experience being out there with all of my guys. It was just honestly something that you can never forget. Playing out there in those games, close games. Going through the playoffs, doing some things that some teams have never done.”

This year, Hawkins is once again leading the team in tackles. He has started all four games and has 27 tackles, including 2.5 sacks.

JMU coach Mike Houston said he had a talk with Hawkins during the summer about what he expected from him this year.

“I think he is one of the better football players on our team and I really wanted him to kind of see some leadership of our defensive unit,” Houston said. “And I think he’s really taken that and ran with it. It’s a credit to him, his work ethic and his toughness.”

Houston said Hawkins was battling a nagging injury in last week’s victory over Maine, but Hawkins still gave a great effort and made some big plays.

Hawkins said that he wants to make the most of his redshirt senior season, and he’s really enjoyed being at JMU.

“It’s been a great experience,” Hawkins said. “And I’m so excited to be here as a senior with this JMU football team. I have loved every step of the way. Even with the hard times, with the coaching transitions and early on we lost a couple games in the playoffs — I don’t regret a thing.”