Courtney Hawkins Comes Home

Courtney Hawkins Comes Home

Former NFL receiver and All-American college star returns to his Michigan hometown to coach and re-energize his high school football team. (Detroit Free Press)

Courtney Hawkins was one of the most sought after high school football players in 1988 when he played for Flint Beecher High School. He broke records and became an All American while at Michigan State before playing in the NFL for Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. But at 5’10” and 180 pounds, he was small for the pros. Injuries and 15 surgeries forced him to retire from the game after nine seasons.

He’s still not exactly sure why he returned to his hometown of Flint Beecher, an impoverished community on the outskirts of Flint. He’d dabbled in real estate after leaving football and his family worried that he lacked direction. When his mother fell ill, he returned home regularly to see her. Then, he convinced his wife to move back to his hometown with him. In 2006 Hawkins was hired as head football coach at his old high school. By his 2nd season, with the team known for losses, they had their first playoff appearance since 1993 and that same year Hawkins was hired as the school’s Athletic Director.

In addition to revitalizing a struggling football team, Hawkins has turned the school around in other ways. He has high standards for academics as well as sports and requires all of his players to stay after school for study hall at least twice a week. He expects students to have good hygiene, to dress well and he doesn’t tolerate saggy pants. He credits his mother for teaching him discipline and a strong work ethic and he recounts the day she pulled him off the court before a game because he had received an unacceptable C grade.

This Detroit Free Press video is about the influence a positive role model can have on a community. While only 3 percent of residents in the Beecher school district have college degrees, 9 of Hawkins’ 21 seniors who graduated last year are in college. And Hawkins himself says he has found a place where he is needed.

Winner, Webby Award 2009, Online Film & Video, Sports category.

CHANNEL: Detroit Free Press

Length: 9:36

Video, Photos: Eric Seals
Narration, Words: Shawn Windsor
Co-producers: Eric Seals, Shawn Windsor, Kathy Kieliszewski