There might not be a more versatile defensive back heading into the NFL Draft than Jaylinn Hawkins. Before he turned into an All-Pac-12 safety at Cal, he was originally a four-star wide receiver.
Over the past two seasons, Hawkins has totaled 85 tackles, nine interceptions and two forced fumbles. He received the Ken Cotton Award for being the Golden Bears’ most courageous player.
Hawkins showcased his skills at the NFL Combine back in February, posting a 35.5-inch vertical jump and impressing scouts with his footwork and hands during on-field drills.
We sat down with Hawkins to discuss his career with the Golden Bears and path to the draft. Let’s get this interview started.
The Spun: You got to compete at the NFL Combine, but because of the coronavirus Pro Days and face-to-face meetings have been cut short. Do you think that’ll affect your stock or have you been able to meet virtually with coaches?
Jaylinn Hawkins: First thing I want to say is that the NFL Combine was a blessing be there. Even if you didn’t fully participate, it’s great to just interview with scouts and coaches. They get to know you on a personal level and see where your head’s at as far as your knowledge. As far as the pro days, it does kind of suck. I have friends on my team that needed a pro day, but it got canceled due to virus outbreak. From my perspective, I wish I had a pro day. But at the same time, I feel like I showed a lot on tape and I’m pretty confident in what I put out there.
My former @BuenaParkHS and @fjuhsd_scambray Student-Athlete Jaylinn Hawkins at the NFL Combine showing his athleticism and leadership that elevated our Football Program, School and all of @BuenaParkCA while playing for the Coyotes!💯🙏🏽#OURFAMYvsTheirTeam #WORK2WIN #Thats3inTheNFL pic.twitter.com/Vm8u3eVk7n
— Coach Anthony White (@CoachAWhite) March 1, 2020
The Spun: Scouts have said you’re one of the most physical defensive backs in the draft, but targeting calls were a minor issue in college. How do you stay aggressive but avoid those costly hits in the future?
JH: During my younger days I wanted to hit people really hard. Throughout my years of college though I became a smarter tackler and player. I was still hitting hard during my senior year, but within the strike zone. It showed a lot this year and I feel like when I go to the NFL I’ll continue to play smart.
The Spun: You were recruited to Cal as a wide receiver, spent time as a cornerback and then made the switch over to safety. Do you think that makes you one of the most versatile prospects available in the draft?
JH: Yes sir. People don’t know that I was a four-star wide receiver. I know the offensive game pretty well. I know the route tree and how receivers get in and out of their breaks. As far as defense goes, I’ve played cornerback, safety and linebacker. I feel like coming into the draft I’m the most versatile defensive back due to my knowledge and my skillset as far as playing the game of football at several positions.
— Jaylinn Hawkins (@jhawko6) March 3, 2020
The Spun: Do you prefer intercepting a pass or making a huge hit?
JH: I prefer an interception for two reasons. For one, I have sure hands, so it’ll be a turnover. And second, an interception would definitely give the ball back to our offense and give them a chance to score. A hard hit is great and it gets the crowd going, but there’s nothing like getting the ball back for your offense.
The Spun: What as your favorite moment from your career at Cal?
JH: Our win against Stanford this past season. We were on a nine-year losing streak, so to beat them at their house and have fans rush the field is one of those moments that you’ll never get back. It was a true blessing.
The Spun: Who’s the one NFL veteran you can’t wait to face?
JH: I really want to go out there and compete against every superstar. Whether I’m competing against an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers or not, I’m going to have that same energy. I just want to make my mark, so I don’t have a specific player I really want to face at the moment.
The Spun: If you had to compare yourself to a current NFL DB, who would it be?
JH: Of course, Sean Taylor is my favorite to watch. Currently though, I watch Eddie Jackson since he’s a ball-hawking safety.
Scouts have raved about Hawkins’ ability to play in the box as well as make plays on special teams. He’s projected to be a mid-round pick in the upcoming draft.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.