Andrew Hawkins

For Andrew Hawkins, the end of his playing career hasn’t led to him slowing down. Hawkins played two seasons in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes and six in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, retiring in July 2017, but has since landed prominent roles both at ESPN and with LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s Uninterrupted. He spoke to Awful Announcing recently about those jobs and the regular coast-to-coast travel that entails.

“It’s been hectic, it’s been crazy, a little delirious, but it’s been good,” Hawkins said. “It’s a challenge; you know, when you get done playing, that’s tough to find. So it’s been cool. …It’s connected me to the game again. It’s kind of hit both buckets of my passion, which is content creation and being in front of the camera, but also behind the camera and on the business side.”

“I’m the director of business development at Uninterrupted and a sister company founded by Maverick Carter called The Robot Company, it’s a marketing strategy company in Tribeca, in New York. So I work on Maverick and LeBron’s companies, and on the other side, I’m an ESPN talent. At ESPN, I do SportsCenter on Snapchat…which has done incredible. The numbers are wild, they’re like close to three million viewers an episode, but they’re small, snackable, like seven-minute, eight-minute episodes of SportsCenter in a cool way for a younger demographic; late teens, early twenties, and thirties. It’s entertaining; I get a chance to write jokes, I get a chance to produce my personality, which is also a big thing for me.”

“Beyond that, I do NFL Live, I do SportsCenter, I have a radio show on NFL Sundays called Operation Football which basically walks through all the highlights of the games that week, essentially a RedZone for radio. And then The ThomaHawk Show at Uninterrupted as well, with my co-host Joe Thomas, who is also a budding media superstar.”

Hawkins said that leads to quite the hectic schedule, especially during the NFL season.

“So on Saturday [nights], I take a red-eye from Los Angeles where I live to Connecticut, to ESPN, land there at like six (a.m.). I typically go into a hotel at the airport and take a nap for like two and a half hours and then head right to the ESPN studio, which is about 45 minutes away. I do a radio show for five hours until about 5:00 p.m. that day. I leave there and I go right to a production meeting for SportsCenter on Snapchat that night. We sit in production meetings until about 11:30, so when the late game ends.”

“And then after the late game, I get done taping around 12:30, 1:00 a.m, jump in the car, leave the studio and go right to a car, take a car to New York which is a two-hour drive. Get to New York around 3:00 a.m., sleep for four hours, wake up at 7:00 and I’m up to do my podcast with Joe Thomas, which is two a week.  We record the podcast 8:00 a.m. on Monday; at 9:00 o’clock I’m in the marketing office at The Robot Company working from 9:00 to 5:00 there.”

“At 5 o’clock, I then jump back in the car and go back to Connecticut through rush hour, so now it takes three and a half hours. I get back to Bristol at about 8:30, go right into the production meeting, and we wrap taping at 1 a.m. 1 a.m., I head back to the airport, sleep until five, back on a six a.m. flight back to L.A., land in L.A. around 10:30, 11:00, and then from the airport, drive right to the office of Uninterrupted. I work the rest of the day and then work nine to five for the remaining part of the week and then do it all again on Saturday.”

He’s not doing that exact L.A. to New York to Bristol commute every week during the NFL offseason, but Hawkins is still regularly flying around the country for speaking engagements, ESPN work, and Uninterrupted work. That travel takes a toll, but he said it’s worth it to try and make his mark on the sports media world. He said he also had previous experience dealing with a weekly commute while he was getting his master’s degree (in sports management) from Columbia during NFL offseasons.

“It’s tough, but as with anything, you have to pay your dues, especially nowadays. I had a little glimpse of it when I was playing, because in the offseason every
week I would fly from L.A. to New York. I was interning at Uninterrupted when I was a player and I was flying to New York for classes when I got my master’s at Columbia. So every Monday I would wake up in the morning at 4:00 a.m., take a cross-country flight to New York, have classes all day on a Monday and then jump back on a flight at 11:00 p.m. in New York that night and come back to L.A. the same day. So I did that for two offseasons to get my master’s at Columbia, so it kind of got me used to the travel a little bit.”

He said it’s difficult to stand out in today’s sports media world, so putting in this kind of effort and jumping at opportunities is a way for him to show what he can do.

“It’s super intense, on top of having to hold down working between the companies, but it’s important. Especially now in the space where everybody’s creating content, everybody is a sports media or media personality. I wanted to make sure I could pay my dues and show through my hard work and show people that if I’m a person that anyone takes a chance on, they’re going to get my max effort. That was what my M.O. was as a player, and it helped me have some staying power in the league. I wanted to do the same thing on this side, so I wanted to build that foundation and if this is what needed to be done, it’s what needed to be done.”

“But it’s tough, because I’m also a father of three and a husband, and having to juggle all that is extremely tough. But my wife is a trooper, and she understands that as time goes on, you create more leverage. You show people like ‘Man, this guy works hard,’ which is all I want anybody to say about me. When they hire me, they bring me on, they know I’m going to give the same level of effort and I care about the job and making sure they look good. And showing that means if you
get the leverage, you get the calling card and the go-to reputation and things will get a little easier. But I just thought it was important for me to lay the
foundation and really kind of pay my dues any way I can.”

That’s led to Hawkins picking up some interesting gigs. In particular, he cites serving as one of the hosts on SportsCenter on Snapchat (which recently received a Sports Emmy nomination for Outstanding Social TV Experience), something he hadn’t even heard of before he was asked to do it.

SportsCenter on Snapchat was crazy in concept. To start off, I didn’t know what it was. I got that gig by posting similar videos of my own stuff on Instagram. I
was just doing funny videos around sports, I had no idea that property was even coming. ESPN saw it and reached out to me and was like ‘Hey, you’d be perfect for this.’ But it goes to show, it’s like, just make entertaining stuff and then the opportunities will come.”

Hawkins sees similarities between his efforts to break into sports media and the path he took to the NFL. He went undrafted in 2008 out of Toledo, signed with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, appeared on Michael Irvin’s 4th and Long reality show, then spent two seasons in the CFL (where he won back-to-back Grey Cups with the Alouettes in 2009 and 2010 under Marc Trestman, who’d go on to coach the Chicago Bears, the Toronto Argonauts and now the XFL’s upcoming Tampa Bay team) before signing with the St. Louis Rams in January 2011, getting cut by them that August and joining the Bengals on waivers. He parlayed that into six seasons in the NFL with the Bengals and Browns, which he attributes to his work ethic and willingness to jump at any opportunity. And he said that’s his approach to sports media too; he recognizes he isn’t the biggest name amongst former athletes, so he feels he has to work even harder to stand out.

“It’s very similar. I was a small-town guy, I’m a small-school guy, I played in Canada, and it’s tough, I was never the big main guy. I wasn’t even the big main guy when I played in Canada. My thing was always if you gave me the opportunity, I could show you what I’m capable of, and pay big dividends for you taking a chance on me. That was my M.O. as a player and I like to think it worked out the majority of the time, if not all the time. And I’m trying to do the same thing on the sports media side and on the content creation side.”

“I’m not a big name, I’m not a Hall-of-Famer, I’m not a perennial Pro Bowler. I had a good NFL career, a better NFL career than anybody, even myself would have imagined . But I understand I’m not top billing as far as when you’re looking for the Randy Mosses or the Joe Thomases. So my thing was always I wanted to
build myself as a personality, I wanted to make sure I gave an honest take, I wanted to make sure I gave honest opinions, and I was entertaining. Because once
people latch onto you as a personality, once people have the appetite for your personality, then you have some real staying power. If you’re just filling seats with the next great Hall of Fame receiver, they’ll just pick up and put somebody else there when somebody else retires.”

“But if the appetite is built for a good personality, if the appetite is built for Andrew Hawkins, I’m going to always be the best Andrew Hawkins. And that’s the way I can always have a job; if people want to hear from Andrew Hawkins the personality, then that’s when I’ll be able to really have built myself up on the back end. And so far so good. That’s why I like to stay towards things that are more personality-driven; you know, obviously I could talk Xs and Os with the best of them, I played football about my entire life, but I want you to really be invested in who I am as a personality. And that comes with being entertaining, that comes with
knowing my audience, that comes with making content that people want to see.”

Hawkins has the unusual setup of working both as front-facing talent (with ESPN and with his Uninterrupted podcast) and as a behind-the-scenes executive (with Uninterrupted and The Robot Company). He said he enjoys doing both and wants to stick with both, but his Uninterrupted role is particularly rewarding because it helps him connect with current athletes and share what he’s learned with them.

“Honestly, I really can’t pick one over the other. The more gratifying one is my role on the business development side at Uninterrupted, because the tag line at Uninterrupted is more than an athlete, and that’s something that I’m very passionate about. When I came to the sport, I thought that my goal was to play one game in the NFL. Once I played one game, I was kind of left feeling like ‘Man, I wonder what’s next. They’re going to pull this carpet from under me at any time, and I want to be prepared for that.’ There’s so many things I had to offer, and I was trying to figure out ways to maximize my experience as a professional athlete. So that’s why I dove in, that’s why I went back and got my master’s, that’s why I did internships every offseason, that’s why I was emailing, going to have lunch and kind of networking with everybody possible while I was a player to show what my interest was and show what my value was.”

“Being able to kind of preach that to other athletes and show them how to maximize their time as a professional athlete and build content that again builds their personality, build their quote unquote brand, or builds and shows their passion to people, that’s really gratifying for me. Because I feel like I’m helping assist Maverick and everybody at the company kind of change that narrative and change the way that athletes view themselves.”

He said he hopes to settle into a role with less traveling eventually, but he wants to stay working both in front of and behind the camera. And for the immediate future, he has no plans to dial his efforts back.

“I think there’s the equation where obviously I’m going to stay on the business side as well as in front of the camera. Just by nature, we all suffer from FOMO, right? My FOMO comes from missed opportunities. I’m scared I’m going to miss a good opportunity, so I typically say yes to everything. Like ‘Yeah, of course,  no problem, I’ll fly across the country.’ I’ll come to Orlando one day, be in L.A. the next, come back to New York, that’s just how I am.”

“Eventually that has to slow down and I’ll be able to, once the time comes and once the right opportunity presents itself, devote myself from the talent side just to one thing and devote myself from the business side just to one thing. But until then, you don’t really know which basket to put your egg in. You kind of have to do it all full throttle.”

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.