From Purple and Gold to Maize and Blue.
A day before America’s birthday, there were already fireworks going off in South Jersey.
Rated as the top wide receiver and sixth-best recruit overall in New Jersey by ESPN’s recruiting web site, Brad Hawkins made a verbal commitment Friday to attend the University of Michigan on a football scholarship. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder is the third Camden High School player to make a college commitment in recent weeks.
“Michigan was the best fit for me going through the process,” the first-team All-South Jersey selection said outside the football stadium at Farnham Park. “When I went up there for a visit, I just loved the place.
“I knew I was going there ever since I took my visit (for Michigan’s spring game). Since Coach (Jim) Harbaugh got the job, I’ve been calling him every day.”
Hawkins, whose first offer came from Florida, had better than two dozen to mull over. Oregon, South Carolina, Temple and Rutgers made the final cut, with the Wolverines winning out over South Carolina.
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He’s leaning toward graduating early and enrolling at Michigan in January. With that, Hawkins would be able to participate in spring practice.
“Michigan and South Carolina were the two schools that were on me since Day 1. It was a real tough decision,” Hawkins said, wearing Michigan gear from head to toe.
Hawkins will join teammate Ron Johnson in Ann Arbor. The top-rated defensive end in New Jersey by ESPN and the state’s No. 3 overall prospect, Johnson committed to Michigan on June 25.
“He recruited me the whole next week,” Hawkins joked. “We always wanted to go to school and play together. I’ve known Ron since my freshman year and we’ve had a good relationship. We went on a lot of visits together and liked the same schools. It was always South Carolina and Michigan.”
“Brad put me on to Michigan,” said Johnson, a first-team All-South Jersey player who had 25 offers. “It feels real good to have someone from the same city, someone who knows what it’s like.”
Dymelle Parker, a third-team All-South Jersey linebacker, committed to Syracuse on June 29. He selected the Orange over Rutgers, Temple and Indiana.
“I feel good for them. We all did a great thing together,” Parker said.
“We’re talking two big-time football programs,” Camden coach Dwayne Savage said. “I’m excited for these guys. This is why you want to coach — to help them become good young men and get them the opportunity to go to college and succeed. In four or five years, hopefully they come back and give back to the city.”
Hawkins is coming off a junior season in which he had 51 catches for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had 17 total scores and also averaged 36.9 yards per kick return.
As a defensive back, he had 40 tackles and three interceptions as Camden finished 9-1 overall and 5-0 en route to the West Jersey Football League Royal Division title.
Hawkins said he will primarily play offense this fall, most likely at running back and wide receiver. Savage noted that his snaps on defense will be limited.
So what kind of player is Michigan getting?
“They’re getting a playmaker,” Hawkins said. “Whenever you need me to make a play, I’ll make a play.”
Hence, his nickname — Big Play Brad.
Hawkins said Harbaugh has compared him to Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee, who played at Southern California. While words are nice, he also knows the time has come to get back to work.
“I have to prove myself,” Hawkins said. “I have to work on the little things — getting off the ball, my explosiveness.”
Camden opens its schedule at home against Highland.
Said Hawkins: “It all starts today.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org