Michigan’s Brad Hawkins ‘frustrated’ by combine snub, but eager for NFL shot

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan football team had 10 draft-eligible players this year, and eight of them landed invites to the NFL’s most important in-person workout event of the year, the combine in Indianapolis.

But safety Brad Hawkins, a three-year starter for the Wolverines and third-team all-Big Ten selection in 2021, was curiously left off the list.

That left Friday’s pro-day workout in Ann Arbor, an event overshadowed by a devastating injury to linebacker David Ojabo, as a vital part of the defensive back’s portfolio to show NFL teams.

“I would say (I had) extra motivation,” Hawkins told reporters afterward. “I was definitely frustrated for a little while, but I got over it and just continued to stay true to myself like I’ve always been doing, since Day 1.”

Hawkins spent the better part of the last two months at EXOS training center in Phoenix, Ariz., Where he worked to build up his strength and prepare for the gauntlet of drills NFL teams use to help gauge a player’s skill. On Friday, the 6-foot, 207-pound Hawkins ran the 40-yard dash in a respectable 4.57 seconds, the shuttle drill in 4.34 seconds and benched 225 pounds 20 times.

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He said afterward he wanted to showcase his speed, agility and flexibility.

“I know what I’m capable of and people know what I’m capable of,” Hawkins said. “I just continue to keep my head straight and grind away.”

In a way, that comment described Hawkins’ Michigan tenure prophetically. The soft-spoken, quiet New Jersey native appeared in a program-record 56 games over five years, with 31 starts at the free safety position. He earned Big Ten co-defensive player of the week honors in October as part of a productive 2021 season, racking up 60 tackles (three for a loss), four pass deflections, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

But there are questions about Hawkins’ sideline-to-sideline speed and his play in coverage, clouding his future at the NFL level.

“It was really, as I see it, just one opportunity,” Hawkins said of Friday’s pro-day workouts. “Some guys had two. I only had one. I went out there and just did everything that I can, to the best of my ability. “

Hawkins did get a leg up in January, when he flew out to Las Vegas to play in the annual East-West Shrine Bowl. It wasn’t the Senior Bowl, but plenty of NFL scouts and personnel were on hand to take in the week of practices and game at Allegiant Stadium, giving Hawkins an opportunity to connect.

Still, Friday was a big deal for him, one last opportunity to impress NFL folks in hopes that he can be drafted late in April.

“Brad is a very special player,” Michigan cornerback Vincent Gray, who earned a combine invite this year, said earlier this month. “He’s a versatile guy who can not only play in the post, but he’s special in the box as well. I think teams are going to be able to use him in a variety of different ways. He has a bright future ahead of him. “

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