Steelers Carnell Lake Can\’t Wait To Get The Illinois Black Cat Into His Lab

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.”

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • $19122620

    Yes, I am very excited about Hawthorne. I know this may be premature but I think he really has all the tools to be an above average future starter on our defense (assuming he stays healthy). Carnell is a great coach, and Hawthorne has everything Steelers look for in their CBs.

    Prior to his senior season he was ranked among the top CBs to enter the draft in 2013. I think the pick was awesome value, and I am so glad we drafted him. I mean I feel better about this pick then when we drafted Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen. And we all know the promise Allen has shown. I was never excited about the Brown pick. In fact, I was hoping we wouldn’t draft him. He may turn out but I am not that hopeful to be honest.

    I really rooting for Hawthorne. I like the thought of him and Allen as our future CBs!

  • Kevin Gobleck

    I love that nickname “Black Cat”. but i really think that he will turn out to be a Steal that we got. I see him eventually being the starter whether across Allen when Ike goes, who knows maybe even sooner.

  • steeltown

    I like this pick… as mentioned, he has the size, speed and tackling ability that Steelers DB’s have to possess. Now, the fact that he is a smart kid, he wanted to get his diploma and seems very grounded just makes the pick even better

    Lets hope Lake can fix his Football shortcomings and make him a solid Steeler

  • http://twitter.com/softdrums Shea Fahr

    Brown is still a good ST player and Lewis did not show anything until it was time to go elsewhere so I am not ready to give up on Brown just yet but this certainly has to be the year for him. Hawthorne to me is like a slightly smaller but faster and sure handed Ike Taylor and I really like him too. Definitely another value pick where they plucked him. He will fit nicely in their system.

  • Pete

    I wasn’t a fan of the Brown pick either. But people keep forgetting that last year was Brown’s rookie season. The year before that he was basically always injured. Lake said that he never had a chance to work with him when he first came to the Steelers because he was always injured. And as a rookie last year, he got thrown into the fire. How did Lewis look after a couple seasons?

    The 2nd season is the year that players are expected to make that jump to the next level. This would be the season for Brown. Everyone expects him to take it to the next level this season. As far as Hawthorne goes, we’ll just have to wait a couple years and see if Lake was able to transform him into the cover corner he could be.

  • $19122620

    Yeah, I listened to Lake’s press con. too and I’m not ready to throw the towl in yet on him, and for the Steelers sake, I hope he pans out, but I am just not overly optimistic I guess. I personally wasn’t that impressed with him coming out of college and am still skeptical. If he “turns the corner” as Lake thinks he might, great. It just means we have more capable players at the position but personally I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • $19122620

    Yeah, I am not giving up on Brown just yet either, and glad the Steelers haven’t completely either, seeing that he was a 3rd round pick. Just stating I never really had a lot of confidence in him to start. For the Steelers sake, however, I hope he proves me wrong and turns out to be worth the 3rd round pick we spent on him.

    On a more positive note, and to which you alluded, I am glad he is at least contributing somewhere, ST.

  • strummerfan

    When I watched Lake’s press conference and the “get him into the lab” comment all I could think was this kid is going to be good.

  • Cody Younkin

    with his size and speed, and with Lakes teachings, this kid could jump over everyone in the depth chart in a year or two, and possibly become a starter when Taylor is gone.

  • Chris Ranieri

    Respect to Hawthorne.

    Gotta admire him challenging himself and not stopping until he sees it through. Starting cornerback or 8th string, gotta love having guys like that representing your organization. Haven’t seen a lick of film of this guy, but reading that alone makes me believe he has tremendous upside. I am definitely now a Terry Hawthorne fan.

  • Mike.H

    The Steelers draft guru’s could find a nearly 6′ talll, 4.3 guy in the 5th round, it’s credit to their homework.

  • Cody Younkin

    here is a a highlight reel of him

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFnzS3pchBs

    Hes makes plays all over the field, and has some strong man coverage skills

  • Superdriller316

    Could we have found the modern day Rod Woodson?
    A little work with Lake???? Just maybe…

  • Ahmad

    If anyone can fix Hawthorne’s technical issues it’s Carnell Lake.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Will someone please tell me where they are getting this 4.31 forty time? All I keep finding is 4.4.

  • hergieburbur

    Honestly, outside of the combine tracks, it doesn’t really matter all that much.

  • SteelersDepot
  • http://www.facebook.com/Wilkes420 Christopher Wilkes

    C’mon!

  • SteelersDepot

    You do realize that there is no such thing as an official 40 time, right? Several scouts have told me this.

  • mghjr88

    I would hope that he would challenge himself and see it through. I mean, he is after all a fifth-round draft pick in the NFL. It’s not as if he got hit by a bus and went undrafted.

  • Guest

    I completely understand that identifying a player’s precise or exact 40 yard dash time is very difficult, thus rendering the player’s results or time “unofficial”. But within the context of the NFL Combine, you do realize the final results are official, right?

  • mghjr88

    I absolutely love the Hawthorne pick, but obviously it’s way too early to credit anyone with anything. Either way, with such great measureables that seemingly pop off the board, how is he a credit to the Steelers homework? As stated in the blog post, Hawthorne had been discussed in national publications prior to the season as potentially being the top defensive back available in this year’s draft. Sure, he is raw and was available in the fifth round, but it’s not as if he was an unknown small school gem that the Steelers dug up.

  • SteelersDepot

    According to scouts, no, they are not. HTH