As I dig deeper into the Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 draft class, I am really starting to drift towards liking the selection of Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft, the most.
For starters, you can\’t help but like Hawthorne\’s 4.31 speed, and even though he is a hair under six foot tall, he is chiseled and looks every bit of an NFL cornerback. In addition to playing cornerback, he also can return punts and kicks, and can even play wide receiver in a pinch.
Now that measurables and beauty pageant aspects have been discussed, let\’s discuss what else is good to like about Hawthorne, who played in 44 games in college and recorded six interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns, 138 total tackles, and 22 pass breakups.
Heading into the 2012 season, Hawthorne was named in late August of 2012 by Tony Pauline of Sports Illustrated as not only one of his top NFL defensive prospects, but his top defensive back to boot. Below is what Pauline wrote about him at that time.
Hawthorne may be the surprise choice at the top of the secondary list, but he\’s a shutdown cornerback with the ability to quickly start in the NFL. He offers size, speed and plays smart football. Hawthorne displayed tremendous improvement each of the past two years and he\’s a polished cornerback with a large upside.
So if Hawthorne was the top rated cornerback way back then, what caused him to plummet all the way down to the fifth round of the draft? Outside of possible durability concerns, Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake offered up his opinion as to the reason for the drop during his press conference immediately following the selection.
“Just watching it from my perspective, I think that if there is anything I can help him with, it will probably be his technique,” said Lake. “I think he has maybe got himself a little bit out of position, and it is partly due to some of the things that I saw with him that I can help clean up. That is kind of where I see the potential in him. Right now, he is just raw. I would like to hone those skills and get him in the lab and really work with him on those things.”
As far as Hawthorne goes, he didn\’t appear to have a good answer when asked why he was still on the board for the Steelers in the fifth round.
“Coming into the season, I was one of the top cornerbacks,” said Hawthorne, during his conference call with the Pittsburgh media following his selection. “I guess my stock just dropped. I don’t really understand how it could have dropped that low to the fifth round. I just thank God, and let him control that.”
So does the East St. Louis, Illinois native have a chip on his shoulder now?
“Of course I have a chip on my shoulder,” said Hawthorne. “I thought I was better than the fifth round. Like I said earlier, it is really nothing I can control. I just leave it up to God.”
Following his junior season, Hawthorne could have forgone his senior year and entered the NFL draft, but he chose not to. Why? According to Bob Asmussen, the Illinois football beat writer for the Champaign News-Gazette, it was more important for Hawthorne to get that piece of paper instead. You know, a diploma. That thing that kids are supposed to earn when they go to college. Asmussen wrote back in August of 2012 that Hawthorne wanted to be an example to kids back at his old high school.
“Everyone always says, \’A student from East St. Louis High School can\’t graduate from college,\’ ” Hawthorne said. “This means a lot to me.”
Despite growing up in a very tough environment that was full of crime, Hawthorne, according Asmussen, never got in trouble and he kept himself occupied with sports. If the NFL doesn\’t work out for him, he reportedly might join the Air Force or get into coaching.
I will get more into Hawthorne in my upcoming breakdown of his play on the football field, but I thought you first might want to get to know the kid that goes by the nickname of “Black Cat”, just a little bit better. I bet Lake can\’t wait to get to know him better, and as he likes to say, “get him in the lab.”