by Rob Moseley
At 6:50 a.m. on Tuesday morning of last week, Daryle Hawkins was reclined on a padded table in the Ducks’ athletic treatment center, hands clasped behind his head as he watched “SportsCenter.”
Exactly an hour earlier, the UO senior receiver’s alarm had buzzed, awakening him to a day that, over the course of 16 hours, would take Hawkins from a football practice in Eugene to a classroom in Portland; through fields of study ranging from fifth-century Buddhist art, to computer assisted 3D routing, to the nuances of kickoff return protection.
For all the time that each and every Oregon football player puts into balancing athletics and academics, none has a schedule to rival that of Hawkins. The reserve receiver is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Product Design, an advanced degree program that requires him to be in Portland for a three-hour studio class three evenings per week.
Pursuing the major has caused Hawkins to miss football meetings in the evening, and make them up with his position coach early in the morning. Playing football has required him to watch class lectures filmed by a university staffer, then meet with professors on his own time.
“It’s definitely extraordinary,” said Jennie Leander, senior associate director of Oregon’s services for student-athletes. “And it has been for the past four years.”
The balancing act makes for some long, intense days. This is one such day.
5:50 a.m., North Eugene
Needing 10 minutes to get from his apartment to Oregon’s athletics facilities in time for 6:30 a.m. treatment, Hawkins awakens at 5:50 a.m. and readies for the long day ahead.
After getting his things together he prepares to head out, pausing to wake up the woman he married just before the start of fall camp this season, Jasmine. “I kiss her goodbye and tell her, ‘Have a wonderful day,’” Daryle says. “And then I’ll see her when it gets dark again.”
Indeed, it will be about 9:45 p.m. before Hawkins pulls back into Eugene following football practice, an art history class on campus and then the eight-hour round trip to Portland for his product design studio. The day has yet to dawn as he pulls out of the parking lot of his apartment complex, and the stars will be out again when he returns.
6:49 a.m., athletic treatment center
Hawkins reclines on the treatment table. “He hasn’t gotten much sleep in the past four and half years,” Leander said, and now might be a good time to sneak some, as he undergoes maintenance for the wear and tear any senior college football player has experienced.
But Hawkins isn’t having any of that. “I’m older now,” he says. “Gotta set a good example.”
And so he’s here first-thing each morning, either receiving treatment from an athletic trainer or warming up for the day on his own, doing Pilates and enduring the agony of a foam-roller. “Gotta get your body right before you get going,” Hawkins says.
7:45 a.m., The Situation Room
Some mornings, the Ducks will lift weights after treatment, but on this day Hawkins goes right into special teams meetings. One or two of the kicking units will have drills in practice each day, and those groups will meet for a few minutes in the morning to review their responsibilities.
On this day, the focus is kickoff return and punt. Hawkins is a third-string guy on the front line of the Ducks’ kickoff return team, so the odds are slim he’ll need to retain much from this meeting. But he’s so sharp, coaches know if Hawkins reviews their schemes pregame, he can be used in a pinch despite not getting the practice reps the ones and twos will.
Special teams coordinator Tom Osborne is at the front of the room, impressing upon 30 or so players the great “passion and speed” Washington State plays with in covering kickoffs. “Go turn on the film if you think I’m giving you coach-speak,” Osborne says.
(Playing without primary return man De’Anthony Thomas due to his ankle injury, Oregon still will average 23.7 yards per return against the Cougars.)
Seated in the front row with his football pants on – players dress in everything but their cleats, helmets and shoulder pads before meetings – is Hawkins. Though he’s unlikely to be needed on this special teams unit, and while other guys yawn and bob their heads through the early morning meeting, his attention never wavers.
8:20 a.m., receivers meeting room
Hawkins reclines deeply in a chair, and finally surrenders to a yawn. But whenever position coach Matt Lubick throws out a question to his group, Hawkins is quick with a response; sophomore Bralon Addison is another guy fast with the right answer.
Once again, Hawkins is seated in the front row. He’ll admit later to being “a front-row guy,” something his position coach respects immensely. “He cares, and not just about football,” Lubick said. “A lot of people talk about being the best at everything they do. He really tries to.”
Later on this day, Hawkins will miss an important team meeting while in Portland for his product design studio. Thus, Lubick will meet with him individually the next morning, a concession to the crazy academic-athletic balancing act Hawkins is attempting.
“If anyone could handle it, it was him,” Lubick says. “He does a good job with it, and he deserves that opportunity.”
9:04 a.m., Moshofsky Center
Hawkins takes the field for Oregon’s pre-practice walk-through, running with the first-team offense.
9:56 a.m., Moshofsky Center
The first 11-on-11 period for the offense against the scout team involves primarily run plays. For a receiver, that means blocking, blocking and more blocking.
Catching touchdown passes might be more glamorous, but Hawkins knows he must focus in these moments.
“If you’re using bad technique, it’s not going to be very fun,” he says. “If you’re going in there face first, you’re going to risk a concussion every time. But if you go in hands first, driving people, trying to push people off the ball the way it’s meant to be done, it’s a lot easier on your body, a lot less exhausting.”
The attention to detail will pay off. Come Saturday against the Cougars, Hawkins will throw key blocks on Thomas Tyner's long touchdown run in the second quarter and Keanon Lowe's touchdown reception just after halftime.
10:41 a.m., Moshofsky Center
Now the Ducks are throwing the ball. Hawkins is targeted for a pass down the field by Marcus Mariota, only to drop a sure touchdown.
There’s no time to pout, because of the Ducks’ practice tempo. Hawkins sprints back to the line to run another play, and then a third, before heading to the sideline and fuming for a second about the drop. “That’s one of the beauties of our offense,” Hawkins says. “You don’t have time to sulk or anything like that.” He thinks that helps in games, too. Some teams might let one bad play linger and affect them on another; the Ducks are conditioned to move on quickly, mentally as well as physically.
Over the course of the day, Hawkins will make up for the drop, and then some. Not for the first time would an observer come away believing Hawkins was a big part of the game plan, only to find otherwise come Saturday; Hawkins catches one pass for 19 yards against WSU, giving him 10 receptions in seven games, for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
“Honestly, I’m very happy for our productivity as a unit,” Hawkins says. “I know the stigma about receivers, that we’re selfish. But we have so much more at stake than stats.”
Says Lubick: “The best leaders in the world are guys who put others before themselves. And he’s the definition of that.”
11:58 a.m., Lawrence Hall
Practice is supposed to break right at 11 a.m., but sometimes it goes a few minutes longer, giving Hawkins and others with noon classes less than an hour to get cleaned up and over to campus.
He didn’t make it to ARH 387: Chinese Buddhist Art in time to sit in the front row. Still, Hawkins manages to find a prominent spot, four rows back in the center of the room, by the time overhead lights are dimmed to accommodate a slide projector.
Here again, another chance to steal some sleep, as a student in the last row shamelessly does, leaning his head against the back wall. But Hawkins passes up the chance again, his eyes locked on either the front of the room or his laptop. (Which, he’ll later admit, displays reading materials for his product design class.)
Hawkins can afford to let his attention waiver, because he’s studied East Asian art before. Earlier in his career, he was actually an art major – not so much because he was interested in the field, but to satisfy NCAA requirements.
To remain eligible, an athlete needs to declare a major by his third year and make quarterly progress toward it. But declaring a product design major requires months of assembling a portfolio and then applying for consideration; while doing that, Hawkins declared for and spent nearly a year working on an art major, just so he could remain eligible to play football.
“The NCAA rules are meant to catch people at the bottom who aren’t doing anything,” Leander says, “but they sometimes trip up people at the top.” No bother – some of the art credits could be applied to Hawkins’ Bachelor of Fine Arts. And it allowed him to catch up on some reading this afternoon, as slides of Buddhist art file by on a screen at the front of the room for the next 80 minutes.
2:45 p.m., Interstate 5
He’s on the road.
Once Hawkins’ art history class gets out, he has time to hustle home, grab a lunch Jasmine has prepared and – if there’s time – make himself dinner for later. Some days she’ll be home from work, and they’ll steal a few minutes together. But she’s working into the afternoon on this day. In those cases, Hawkins spends part of the drive to Portland on the phone with his wife, and also his mom.
Hawkins grew up in Omaha, and laughs about the barren stretch to Portland that he’s “used to driving around in Nebraska, so this is nothing new.” If he were any other product design major, he’d have moved the 110 miles north for his fifth year at Oregon; it’s where the instructors are, and the internships he’ll need to pursue, and later the jobs.
But Hawkins didn’t want to pass up one more fall with the Ducks – the excitement of the first year under Mark Helfrich, the luxury of the new Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. He’s putting off the move until after the season.
And so, three times a week throughout the term, he’ll climb into his car for the nearly two-hour trek to Portland, attend a three-hour seminar and drive home. “I’m really amazed he’s been able to do it all,” says Kiersten Muenchinger, director of the product design program in the university’s school of architecture and allied arts. “And he does it with a smile. He’s the nicest fellow.”
(As a personal aside, a reporter was able to – after clearing it with compliance – drive back and forth for the purposes of this story. The assumption was that Hawkins could better use the time to sleep, or catch up on school work. Instead he chatted amiably the entire time, both ways, with a guy twice his age.)
4:15 p.m., White Stag Block, Portland
After making good time from Eugene, Hawkins has 45 minutes until his studio begins. He spends the first few minutes socializing with classmates, the athletic football player mingling with colleagues whose knit caps, flannel shirts and skinny jeans look much more like what you’d expect from students in the creative arts.
Hawkins socializes with them as comfortably as he did his football teammates earlier in the day. “You get a lot of kids who kind of live in their bubble,” Leander said. “He’s extraordinary in that he’s got this whole other life going on outside of football.”
Coincidentally, Hawkins has spent the first couple weeks of his studio class designing a whole other life. It turns out that, in considering what new product might appeal to consumers, it’s helpful to start from the ground up – by building from scratch an extremely specific target customer.
To start out the term, Hawkins and a partner were told three things about an imaginary consumer named “Jessica.” She’s 29 years old, she’s a freelance journalist and she lives in New York City. From there, Hawkins and his partner constructed a massive backstory and daily lifestyle, mapping out each on huge pieces of art paper.
Then, Hawkins went about imagining, by himself and from the abstract, a new product that might appeal to Jessica, and in turn the masses. “We’ve got a bunch of quirky ideas,” he says. “But that’s what it’s all about. Get a bunch of ideas out as fast as possible.” The scribbled drawings and pieces of scratch paper strewn around his work space, ideas that coalesce around a new type of iPhone charger, certainly attest to that.
5:18 p.m., White Stag Block, Portland
Class has begun. For this evening’s session, the group of about 10 has retired to a computer lab upstairs, to work on 3D routing software. Later, they plan to study a 3D printing program.
Hawkins has also taken woodworking and ceramics classes as part of his major; there are very few limits on the nature of the products he and his classmates are encouraged to conceptualize and design during the term.
6:02 p.m., White Stag Block, Portland
After an hour of intense instruction, the class is given a 10-minute break.
Hawkins remains at his terminal. The discipline of his focus – perhaps a product of his upbringing in a military family – contrasts with the creative thinking that’s required when conceiving a new idea.
“He’s really good,” Muenchinger said. “You have to be able to do both qualitative and quantitative works. And you also have to have a high level of attention to creative details. He’s got to have – and he does – a precision about his work, as well as a concept about his work. And the precision takes a lot of time. When you do a studio-based course, there’s just a heck of an amount of time making sure something is crafted really well.”
6:43 p.m., White Stag Block, Portland
Relief – due to a software issue, the students in Hawkins’ product design studio are cut loose an hour early from class. Coming up on 12 hours since he was in the athletic treatment center to start his day, Hawkins might be expected to hit the road for Eugene immediately, and enjoy an extra hour of sleep.
Instead, he heads back to his work space, to sketch out a few more ideas. “You do more work now, it’s less work on the back end,” he says.
One by one, the rest of the class leaves for the evening, presumably for a short walk or bike ride home. The guy with more than 100 miles to drive stays behind.
“Everybody just peaced out?” the other remaining student asks.
“Everybody’s slacking,” Hawkins says, without looking up from the sketch he’s working on, his focus as intense as ever.