By Emily Loux, MASCAC Director of Media Relations
Jeff Hawkins has experienced more in life than most people ever dream to do. He has been in the Army, worked for the New England Patriots, Dartmouth, Tulane and currently, the University of Oregon. Even with all the experiences he’s had across the United States, there is a university in Massachusetts that will always have a special place in his heart.
In 1976, Hawkins or “Hawk” as he is more affectionately known, first step foot on the Bridgewater State College campus. Fresh off a three-year stint in the Army, he was ready to go to college and earn his degree. Having time between high school and college provided him a more unique view on his new status as a 21-year old freshman.
“The Army helped me out a lot and being able to adapt,” Hawkins said. “I was used to be in regiment. Being a high school football player prepared me for the Army which then helped me become a college student-athlete. I fell right into being a student at Bridgewater State. As a fall student-athlete, you get a chance to be at school and make friends so you are ahead of the game knowing people. The people I met in 1976 are still some of my greatest friends today.”
After a four year starting spot on the Bears football team with his final year as a captain and three years as the class president, Hawkins graduated in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education with a concentration in coaching and a liberal arts degree with a concentration in marketing.
Following graduation, he found one break after another. First, he started with the Patriots as an intern that turned into a full-time job. Next, he was off to Chico State as the Director of Football Operations before heading back to New England for a job at Dartmouth with his former high school teammate Buddy Teevens.
His connection with Teevens opened yet another door for Hawkins this time at Tulane in New Orleans, Louisiana. After back-to-back Ivy League championships, Teevens was hired as the new head coach and asked Hawkins one simple question. “You coming?” To which he answered, “my bags are packed”.
While at Tulane, a unique opportunity for Hawkins would arise. Having participated as part of Special Olympics in New England and California, he wanted the chance to be more involved in New Orleans. That’s when the Louisiana chapter, one of the original 13 chapters, came calling. Although being involved with Special Olympics was meaningful in its own right, it helped Hawkins develop a more cohesive work environment at Tulane.
“Special Olympics epitomizes true sportsmanship”, Hawkins said. “Many lessons were learned from being involved with the organization. I was involved wherever I lived. I got people at Tulane involved and it helped be an adhesive for the different groups that worked on campus together. We didn’t really work together on campus, but this brought us all together for a common cause.”
During his time in New Orleans, a lot happened for Hawkins. He married his wife, Amy, and helped found the Manning Passing Academy while transitioning to a job with the Sugar Bowl. That was until another former coworker offered him a new chance.
While working at Chico State, Hawkins worked under head football coach Mike Bellotti who was the head coach at Oregon in 2001. It wasn’t long before the Hawkins’ moved to Eugene, Oregon a previously unknown town to start another journey as the Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations at Oregon.
Fast forward 16 years and Hawkins still is enjoying life in Eugene with his wife and daughter Gabe as the Senior Associate Athletic Director. Looking back on the rollercoaster ride of his career, he knows it was as much about skills as it was his network that helped him along the way.
“I have been lucky that I bounced around by choice for each opportunity,” Hawkins said. “In each case, it was because someone reached out to me and asked if I wanted that chance. I was able to show off all the things I learned along the way. When I have a new group of students coming in to work for me, I tell them my story so they know how important it is to network. Who you know and doing the job well are so important.”
Despite his college days being 37 years ago, it might as well be yesterday for Hawkins. Each year, he invites Bridgewater State alumni to the Manning Passing Academy which results in a non-stop discussion of their “war” stories of playing football and their athletic achievements even if they are embellished slightly. Whether it is phone calls, social media or annual events, the family that Hawkins had as a Bear will never fade.
“My brother Bears will always remain in my heart and on my mind forever,” Hawkins said. “I have been blessed to have participated on every level of athletics be it college or pro. I wouldn’t trade my memories or my friendships in Division III for anything in the world. Going back to my first pre-season football camp in the summer of 1976, while standing in line with 80 perfect strangers, who would’ve thought that now 40+ years later, those strangers would go on to become my closest friends.”
It is always a great day to be a Bear.