When it came down to it, Kee Hawkins’ reasons for committing to play football at Army weren’t complicated.
Hawkins pledged to play for the Black Knights on Friday, making him the second Live Oak player to commit this week, following Jalen Lee, who committed to LSU on Tuesday.
“I’m excited,” Hawkins said.
Live Oak coach Brett Beard praised Lee and Hawkins for their commitments.
"I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunities for these two young men, great young men, great leaders, just huge parts of Live Oak football on and off the field," Beard said. "LSU and Army -- LSU with the in-state and the SEC and the top tier, but you know what? Army is a whole nother level realistically if you think abut it as a service academy for this country and ... it will give that opportunity to that kid, who's a foster kid, to be able to go to Army, be a soldier for this country and have such huge doors opened for him that without football, (he) might not have ever had that."
Part of the allure for Hawkins is Army’s triple-option offense, which is similar to the scheme Live Oak ran in Hawkins’ freshman season.
“It’s just smashmouth football,” said Hawkins, who’ll stay at running back after rushing for 916 yards and six TDs on 135 carries and hauling in five catches for 139 yards in 10 games as a junior last season.
Beard said Army is an excellent fit for Hawkins' skill set.
"He's not one of those players that everybody's looking for," Beard said. "He's not a 4.4 (40-yard dash) guy. He's a fullback. He's a battering ram. Where a 4.4 guy can really fit anywhere, well a fullback has got to find that fit. There's no better fit for him than Army. For them to come through, put eyes on him, fall in love with him, see what kind of young man he is, and for them to pull the trigger on him, it's just amazing for that last name of his and what's to come for generations of his family going forward."
Hawkins said he got taste of what Army’s offensive scheme is all about while watching last season’s game with Oklahoma, which the Sooners won 28-21 in overtime.
“The line, they put a double-team on one of the D-lineman in the end zone, and it was bad,” Hawkins said. “It was nasty.”
Hawkins said Army and Louisiana-Lafayette were the schools that had the most contact with him during the recruiting process, but the persistence of the Black Knights’ coaching staff won him over.
“They actually kept in contact with me the most out of most of the schools that talked to me, then they offered me first,” Hawkins said. “That was one key thing. They constantly called me, and we constantly talked. We had good conversations, and it just made me put my mindset on them.”
Beard said the recruiting process tested Hawkins at times with teammates maybe getting more attention from colleges, but his signing is an example of his patience paying off.
"He would kind of get down, and he would kind of have some questions, and you could tell it would bother him," Beard said. "I said, 'dude, just stick with the process and be the best you can be.' Be the best you, and everything else will take care of itself. Continue to be the student-athlete that you are. Stay out of trouble. Do things right. Good people are taken care of, and being a fit guy, you just had to have that right fit. Army saw the fit and jumped on him, and that's exactly what we wanted to have happen."
Hawkins also realizes he’ll have a service commitment by going to Army, but he said that’s not a major concern.
“I don’t mind it, actually,” Hawkins said. “If it comes with it, it doesn’t bother me.”
Beard, who went to Vanderbilt before finishing his playing career at Southeastern Louisiana, said Hawkins' commitment to Army is about more than football.
"There is life after football," Beard said. "The opportunity at certain places open up bigger doors than others, and Vanderbilt University, I've explained to him, is just like Army. These are prestigious institutions that your life is going to go places nobody ever would have thought Kee Hawkins would go, and you're going to get an education and be a part of something so much bigger than you that's ultimately going to take care of that last name, and that's bigger than football, and that's bigger than anything else."