Former Pittsburgh Steeler Courtney Hawkins of Flint still misses Sundays in the NFL

February 5, 2011

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal
Way before rapper Wiz Khalifa made it a national trend to represent the “Black and Yellow,” Flint’s Courtney Hawkins was doing damage on the football field for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

From 1997-2000, the Beecher high school graduate played wide receiver for the Steelers, hauling in 160 receptions for 1,829 yards and averaged 11.4 yards per catch. He also scored five touchdowns. In fact, Hawkins still holds the Steelers’ record for most receptions in a single game. In week nine of 1998 season, he amassed 14 receptions for 147 yards against the Tennessee Oilers breaking the previous record set by Steelers legend, J.R. Wilburn by two catches.

That game is still bittersweet to Hawkins.

“Individually it was a heck of a game and it was one of those games that as a wideout you dream of,” Hawkins said. “Unfortunately we ended up losing but to break any record on a NFL team is tough, so I was happy from that standpoint of breaking the record but it still ticked me off about the fact of losing the game.”

That feat is even more impressive when you take into account the rich history and elite players of the franchise’s past. Athletes like John Stallworth, Jerome Bettis and Rod Woodson all earned their stripes on the football field in Pittsburgh leading the Steelers to six Super Bowl wins. Pittsburgh will try to hoist their seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy when they battle Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Cowboys Stadium this Sunday.

Although Hawkins never played on the big stage, he’s fully aware of the magnitude of the contest and enjoyed the passion of Steeler fans.

“It’s Steeler nation and there’s other sports there but it’s about the Steelers in Pittsburgh,” Hawkins said. “It’s a absolutely crazy football town, they love the Steelers and they’re behind them 110 percent. It was one of the funnest places to play and one of the funnest places to live because if you’re a Steeler, you’ve got the heart of the town.”
Hawkins is now Beecher high school’s athletic director as well as the varsity football head coach. He accepted these roles in 2006. But Hawkins still misses stepping out on that field each Sunday to play under the bright lights.

“I miss it on Sundays sometimes and there’s nothing I can do or anybody can do to help you get the feelings that you get on Sundays,” Hawkins recalled. “Running out of the tunnel to when you’re at home to everybody’s cheering and you can’t even hear yourself think to being on the road to guys talking about your momma and booing you, there’s nothing like it but I don’t miss how I felt on Monday mornings.”

Hawkins played his first four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1992, the Bucs drafted him with the 44th pick in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft. Hawkins had four stellar seasons at Michigan State  prior to turning professional. As a sophomore in 1989 he garnered a spot on the All-Big Ten first team ater setting a school-record, catching 60 passes for 1,080 yards. This record would later be broken by Plaxico Burress and Charles Rogers, but Hawkins set the bar for future Spartans wide receivers.
It’s been 11 years since Hawkins hung up his No. 88 Steelers jersey. Only two Pittsburgh players from the current roster, Hines Ward (wide receiver) and Aaron Smith (defensive end), played with Hawkins. Still there’s no question about who he’s picking to win Super Bowl XLV.

“That’s a easy one for me man, I’m picking the Steelers hands down,” Hawkins said. “I believe it’s gonna be a good game. I dont think it will be a blowout or anything like that but I think defense in this case will win championships.”


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