Louisville football’s top back will soon be playing on Sunday’s.
Upon Scott Satterfield’s arrival, Louisville football was coming off of their worst season running the football since 2011, totaling 1,698 yards rushing and their on-again-off-again starting quarterback and redshirt freshman, Malik Cunningham, leading the way. If anyone could fix the rushing woes, he was the man for the job.
During his tenure at App State, Satterfield became known for his high-powered offenses that were built on the belief that running the football was king. Year after year, App State produced nationally top ranked rushing attacks under the direction of Satterfield which became synonymous with the programs ability to win football games (51 over six seasons) and compete at the highest level in the Sun Belt (despite being relatively new to the FBS level).
The cupboard by no means was empty, as Louisville rostered players like Hassan Hall, Trey Smith, Jeremy Smith, Colin Wilson, and Dae Williams in the 2018 season. Instead it was a lack of poor coaching, bad fit scheme wise, and an overall disinterest to establish a solid running attack with running backs.
With Satterfield holding the reigns there was a ton of optimism about what the running game could be. But it seemed like that slowly seemed to fade as the depth in the running back room faded with Smith, Wilson, Williams, and others deciding to leave.
After being the team’s leading rusher at the running back position in ’18 as a freshman, all signs pointed to the rising sophomore taking control of the lead back role for Satterfield and running backs coach Norval McKenzie in year one. Due to the not so quiet emergence of Hawkins, that never came to fruition. Instead, it was “PlayStation” (a nickname given to Hawkins in high school) who would become “the” guy for the Cards.
Over the next year and a half Hawkins would go from a guy who had little expectations in the Cardinals backfield to becoming one of the top running back’s in all of college football. Despite his smaller stature, Hawkins quickly proved his ability to not only be an every down feature back, but a special player capable of willing a team to wins.
Watching his season in 2019 at times was like watching a video game, as Hawkins defied human nature with his runs, breaking tackles against defenders sometimes nearly twice his size and slipping through holes that weren’t there to begin with. His elusiveness rivaled that of one Lamar Jackson, while his ability to “run through somebody’s face” and fight of tackles looked straight like a page out of the book of Michael Bush.
His 1,525 yards rushing, nine touchdowns, and eight games over 100-plus yards led to several broken Cardinal rushing records, including most by a freshman, and ultimately earned him 2nd-Team All-ACC honors. It also played a huge role in Louisville overachieving in year one (obviously), as the ability to have the run whenever Satterfield wanted allowed for big plays to go the way of Malik Cunningham and Tutu Atwell’s way as well.
This season the expectations have risen to another level with talk of potentially supplanting himself firmly in the conversation as the second best running back in program history, as well as potentially competing for a final spot in the Heisman Trophy race.
While things haven’t gotten off to the start many expected, in each game the Cards have played this season we’ve seen the importance of Javian Hawkins. I’ve also seen more than enough to officially conclude something we must all soon realize.
The days of watching no. 10 turn two yard gains into 75-yard touchdown runs in video game like fashion are numbered due to the call of the powerful National Football League.
As a redshirt sophomore playing in his third year, Hawkins will be draft eligible for the first time come the conclusion of the 2020 season and with the success he’s had thus far in his career its not unfeasible to believe he could depart for the NFL.
Though its just been one and a half seasons with Hawkins as the lead tail back for the Cardinals high-powered offense, the resume through 19 games is already at the level to attract NFL attention.
In addition to the 1,525 yards from 2019, Hawkins has already accounted for an ACC leading 693 rushing yards in six games this season, including six touchdowns (third in the ACC), as well as a career-high 85 yards receiving on 11 receptions.
His performance against Florida State was one of just many special games that we’ve seen over the last 18 months, but it once again showed that despite being a smaller back, Hawkins is still the proverbial ‘pound for pound’ toughest player on Louisville’s roster.
In his third game rushing for over 150-plus yards, Hawkins ran north, south, east, and west over Florida State’s defense, totaling 174 yards and a touchdown on way to being named the ACC running back of the week. While sharing the gridiron with multiple defensive players from Florida State who are locks to play in the NFL, Hawkins stood out head and shoulders above them all – without question looking like the best player on the field.
With only five more games this season, Louisville fans could (a strong emphasis on could) be watching Hawkins wear the red and black for the last few times of his career. There will be a tough decision awaiting the sophomore running back, who could very well find himself as a top five leading rusher in program history by seasons end; come back for one more year or capitalize on the two-year span at Louisville and head off to the NFL.
Still, whether it’s this year or next year, the NFL isn’t too far off for Hawkins. Despite size limitations and a growing receiving game, Hawkins has shown everything necessary to be an NFL lead back someday, even if it doesn’t mean being a top round draft pick.
Whenever he goes, Hawkins will leave as one of the most prolific running back’s in program history, and for that reason we can’t lose sight on how special he is. There was a nearly 10-year gap between running back’s at Louisville to rush for 1,000-yards with Bilal Powell doing it in 2009, before Hawkins far surpassed that in 2019.