There’s no denying that Edgewood’s Taylor Hawthorne truly enjoyed every moment of playing high school football.
Just hearing the way the senior quarterback passionately describes the feeling of running unto the field under the bright stadium lights on Fridays is a prime example.
“There’s nothing like football,” Hawthorne said. “Going out there on Friday nights and playing under the lights, just the feeling you get.”
However, the fulfillment the gridiron provided the past four years ultimately failed to overcome his first love — baseball.
“I decided that I was just going to go Jacksonville State and play baseball,” said Hawthorne, who signed with the Gamecocks recently. “I came into my high school career not thinking I was going to be anything in football, but I turned out to be a pretty good football player.
“Baseball has been my love since I was 4 years old, and I feel like if I push myself hard enough that I can get to the (pros).”
The 6-foot-4 signal caller morphed into an intriguing prospect over the past two years, landing football offers from Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee State and West Alabama. Programs like Connecticut and Southern Miss have inquired about the senior as of late, too.
“I love football and everything, so making that decision was extremely hard and difficult,” said Hawthorne, who threw for 2,092 yards and 25 touchdowns in leading Edgewood to its fourth consecutive AISA Class AA state championship.
Wildcats coach Bobby Carr wasn’t surprised at Hawthorne’s steady rise in football.
“I’ve been coaching for 18 years, and Taylor is the best athlete I’ve ever coached,” Carr said. “I knows sky’s the limit in anything that he does. Obviously, Taylor wants to play baseball and he came here as a baseball player, but he developed into one heck of a Division I football (prospect).
“He’s got a bright future in whatever he wants to do.”
The Prattville native wanted to avoid the same situation former teammate Rod Boykin faced last spring. Boykin inked a football scholarship with Alabama State, but opted not to report to the Hornets after being chosen by the San Diego Padres in the 12th round of the baseball draft and signing a six-figure bonus.
“I called and spoke with Rob about it,” Hawthorne said. “He’s been playing since he was little, and it’s his love sport too, so I can kind of relate to that.”
The 18-year-old shortstop might not even enroll at Jacksonville State next fall. According to Carr, area pro baseball scouts have the senior rated higher than Boykin.
“If I do get drafted, I’ll consider it and everything,” said Hawthorne, who batted .398 with 44 RBIs as a junior. “Of course, the money and where I get drafted are important factors, but if I get drafted in the later rounds like the 20s, then I’ll consider going to college and working to get better.”