When Jerald Hawkins came out in the 2016 NFL Draft, he was officially weighed at 305 pounds. That is what is listed on the team’s website. That is what is listed on his Combine draft profile, and on the NFL’s official player page for him. But that wasn’t his playing weight.
Hawkins, a product of LSU during a time in which they had Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice, and before that, Jeremy Hill, played much heavier than that for the Fighting Tigers, and he brought that weight with him to the NFL.
He talked about that recently with Tim Benz, and how he decided to drop that weight after his season-ending quad injury a little over a year ago. “I cut a lot of weight, man. From my rookie year coming in, I was almost 330 [pounds], but I realized quick that you don’t need to be that big”, he said.
“You just need to be able to move and handle your job. So I cut that down and I’m back at 307 right now. I feel pretty confident. Especially coming off this injury I needed to get back stronger”. He added that he wasn’t trying to play at that weight initially.
“It was just natural being at LSU”, Hawkins went on. “Big guys playing big guys every week / “we did a lot of ground and pound, it pretty must wasn’t a lot of passing at LSU as you can realize / “you had to be ready to hold your weight on”.
All you have to do is look at LSU’s offensive numbers. The quarterbacks often didn’t have much more passing yards than their running backs had rushing yards. If you wanted to be an LSU offensive lineman, the ticket was to be a road grader.
That changes a lot once you get into the NFL, and especially on the Pittsburgh Steelers, as Ben Roethlisberger attempted more passes than anybody else in the NFL last season, and had one of the highest pass attempt numbers in a single season in NFL history.
Run-blocking is still and will always be important, but you can make it in the NFL and make yourself quite wealthy by becoming a great pass protector at the tackle position. Hawkins, entering his fourth season—the final year of his rookie contract—is still hoping to do that.
The former fourth-round pick is in competition with Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor for the starting right tackle position after they decided to trade Marcus Gilbert. Hawkins has missed two of his first three seasons due to injury, so actually lags behind the other two in terms of playing experience, but he has the most accrued seasons (though Feiler has still been in the league longer).