BY GEOFF HOBSON - GEORGETOWN, Ky
There will be no Artrell Hawkins III.
The infant son of Artrell Hawkins Jr., is known as Aeneas Hawkins. A nice play in double coverage. Not only does it keep alive the family tradition of names that begin with "A," but it stops the son short from the father's shadow.
"The one thing Tom has done is help me getting my head clear," Hawkins said before today's practice at Georgetown College. "That's where he's helped me. Off the field. Just spiritual issues as far as my family is concerned. When you have peace of mind about that stuff, it helps in football."
For the first time since the days Ashley Ambrose lined up with Jimmy Spencer one presidential campaign ago, the Bengals are starting to get their heads clear about their cornerbacks. After Friday's preseason opener in Buffalo, it was the first time in recent memory there had been no public self-floggings about the inability to cover wide receivers. And it can be chalked up to more than the 54 NFL interceptions the Bengals brought here when they picked up Carter and free safety Darryl Williams in free agency.
"It's just the pre-game attitude," Carter said of his bond with Hawkins. "We both have the same feelings. The same emotions he has, I have. It just helps that you share. A guy is supposed to be all macho and think he's the bravest guy in the world, but we're all nervous before games."
Oh, the interceptions help. When Hawkins lined up across from Corey Sawyer in last year's preseason opener, the starting secondary had 20 career interceptions. When Sawyer's 11 picks were cut before the regular-season opener, Hawkins' 16 rookie starts were the most of any corner on the roster.
"I don't think that's good strategy to have a second-year guy be your most experienced corner," Hawkins said. "It's been a big help that Tom and Darryl are here. They've got over 50 picks between them and the young guys have someone to look up to. It eases the pressure when you have two guys around like that. I think I'm doing well. I feel better. I feel older. I feel like I'm going to make some things happen this year. Let's wait and see."
Carter just didn't walk into this camp with 25 interceptions. He also came in with the Bible and a heart big enough to share the experiences of a former first-round pick who had been with two teams in seven years. Even though he was picked up off waivers from the Bears with two games to go last season, Carter was already chairing the team's Bible study discussions during offseason workouts. The rare times secondary coach Ray Horton or defensive assistant Louie Cioffi couldn't oversee drills, Carter would lead them.
"Tom''s very giving. He shares his knowledge and I didn't have that last year," Hawkins said. "He's a good family man. A great Christian guy. Just a good guy. Period. It's good to have true friends around. He's a true friend. You can look into his heart and see that. In this business, it's hard to find a true friend. I mean, you have acquaintances, and of course your teammates. The guys you go to war with every day. But to find a true friend like Tom is nice."
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Hawkins rooms with Carter here at training camp and on road trips, and Carter shrugs because sharing comes naturally to him. After all, Darrell Green, the Redskins' future Hall-of-Fame cornerback, did it for him when Washingtom made Carter the 17th pick in the draft when he came out of Notre Dame in 1993.
"Why bottle up what you know?" Carter asked. "With the exception of the kicker, (cornerbacks) are one of the few guys on the field who are all alone out there. You'd have 99 good plays and one bad one and it's the bad one that gets remembered. You've got to be there for each other."
Hawkins doesn't think he had THAT bad of a year last year. But he knows he didn't have an interception and that he missed three starts because of injuries and that the Bengals basically put up the For Sale sign at right cornerback during free agency and the draft.
Hawkins majored in business at the University of Cincinnati and that's what he took care of during the offseason. He's now playing with contact lenses in his eyes and he worked to build up his body so the nagging hurts wouldn't cut into his playing time. He counts five dropped interceptions last year.
"The contacts have helped me out here in practice, but I don't know about in a game because they didn't throw one up on my side," Hawkins said. "I guess some people think I had that bad of a year, but if I count the balls that I dropped, then it would been a different scenario."
What really is a different scenario is having his head clear. Hawkins first heard the name, "Aeneas," when he first heard of Cardinals Pro Bowl cornerback Aeneas Williams. And he recalled how hard it was and how hard it still is back in Johnstown, Pa., to have the same name of a troubled father who was a big-time player himself.
"The connotation is, 'praise," and the meaning is 'honor,' and Aeneas Williams is a good guy," Hawkins said. "And he doesn't have to live in my shadow and walk around and have people asking him if I'm his father."
Still, in his third season, he would like to make a name for Artrell Hawkins Jr.