Wednesday afternoon’s national signing day ceremony held in the gym at Palm Springs High School was less about the ink-to-paper and more about a celebration for three seniors and the families and friends who’ve supported them.
Tayler and Tyler Hawkins, along with teammate Trenton Thompson, signed their national letters of intent to play college football next fall. As it turns out, two brothers on the playing field will continue their journey together, while the blood brothers will separate for the first time.
Tayler and Thompson announced Wednesday they’ll play football together at San Diego State, while Tyler heads north to Sacramento State to continue his athletic career.
The future Aztecs both took an official visit to SDSU on Jan. 22, but up until just a few days ago, neither had thought about the real possibility of playing there together.
The two owned offers from five of the same schools, but Tayler Hawkins held prospects from four Pac-12 schools, where he would have had the opportunity to play on a bigger stage.
They stayed in a hotel room together on their visit, and Thompson was soon swayed, but it was only until just a few days ago that Hawkins decided that SDSU would be the best fit for him, too.
If things work out right, they’ll spend many more nights together, this time as freshmen roommates.
“We did talk about it sometimes, but I would have never thought that he would come with me,” Thompson said. “It will make this experience a lot better.”
Hawkins wanted it known they didn’t collaborate on the decision, but in the end, it worked out how it was supposed to.
“It wasn’t meant to happen, but at the same time, it was because it did,” he said. “I just felt right about it, and I just went with my heart and my gut feeling.”
The pair give the Aztecs’ coaching staff two versatile athletes with specialties on defense, where Palm Springs head coach Dan Murphy said he knew SDSU needed some help with some underclassmen departures after last season.
Hawkins grabbed five interceptions and a fumble on defense and returned three punts for scores, but he was also the valley’s leading receiver with 61 catches for 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air.
Thompson, along with his 62 total tackles and an interception, blocked two punts and three field goals for the Indians this season. He also racked up more than 300 yards receiving and caught a touchdown.
The pair can pretty much do it all on the football field.
“Their coach said he expects them to do things right away, depending on how they adjust,” Murphy said. “They have the ability to play right away.”
Tyler, who only had one scholarship offer to a school that overlapped his brother, said it was nice to have someone living under the same roof going through the recruitment process together.
The twins have gone through plenty together, growing up. Their mother, Robin Roy, died from congestive heart failure in August 1999 when the boys were just 18 months old. Their father, Kevin Hawkins, has been in and out of the picture ever since.
Instead, their maternal grandparents, Arthur and Wessie Roy, raised the twins, with plenty of help from the rest of their relatives – many of whom packed the gymnasium on Wednesday.
They all showered Tyler and Tayler with hugs and photo requests after the paperwork was signed.
It would have been easy for the Hawkins brothers to band together and make a joint decision, but both had to do what was best for themselves. That’s the strength they’ve been raised to show.
“It’s time to grow up and go play football,” he said. “This is where the business aspect of things comes into play, so we’re ready for it.
“We push each other really hard, but we both let each other do our own things, ‘cause it was our own decisions, so we had to make it for ourselves and figure out our best fit.”
When Murphy first took over the program in 2012, the trio were freshmen, and they watched Michael Greer and Rodney Butler sign their national letters of intent to attend Oregon State and New Mexico State, respectively.
Murphy said he enjoys making the freshmen a part of this ceremony each year, because as he looks around the gym, he wonders who might be sitting at the table with a pen in their hand in three years.
It’s something the Indians coaching staff and community continue to take pride in, but Murphy made it clear to the three that they’ll continue to represent Palm Springs long after they move into their dorm rooms.
With what they’ve all achieved at the high school level alone, including a CIF Southern Section title when they were juniors, Murphy knows they’ll continue that tradition well.
“I think both schools are getting three outstanding young men and very good football players.”