Former coach returns to Panthers’ football fold

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By Scott Akanewich

Who says you can’t go home again?

During the 2013-14 seasons, Scott Hawkins roamed the Liberty Hill sidelines as the Panthers’ offensive line coach, helping the Purple-and-Gold compile a 22-5 record with an offense that produced three 1,000-yard rushers on the roster and a berth in the Class 4A state semifinals.

Hawkins has returned for the upcoming 2020 season, only this time around he will focus on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage as the Panthers’ defensive line coach, as well as coaching track in the spring.
When he steps back on the Liberty Hill sideline, Hawkins will be among many familiar faces, he said.

“I’ve known (Athletic Director and Head Coach) Jeff Walker since 1998 when we coached together in San Marcos, as well as (offensive coordinator) John Hall and (inside linebackers coach) Carlos Garza,” said Hawkins, who arrives in Liberty Hill after serving as athletic director and head football coach at Thorndale High School for the past five years. “I’ve also known (defensive coordinator) Coach Kent Walker for about the same amount of time and worked with (defensive backs coach) Tommy Foster and (offensive line Coach) Rudy Acevedo when I was at Liberty Hill in 2013-14.”

According to Hawkins, he’s always had admiration for the players the Panthers produce and the qualities they possess – not the least of which is an undying work ethic.

“I have, for a long time, praised the athletes of Liberty Hill – they’re a different breed of child – they may not be some of the top athletes on the field and usually aren’t the largest or highly-recruited, but there is a mentality of the athletes in Liberty Hill which is like none other,” said Hawkins, who complied a 27-28 record with the Bulldogs. “They are some of the hardest-working kids I’ve been around – they believe in what they do and the coaches they play for.”

Hawkins is now the fourth member of the Panthers’ coaching staff who has also served as an athletic director and head coach during their respective careers, which is something head coach Jeff Walker doesn’t take for granted, he said.

“Coach Hawkins adds more experience and knowledge to an already great staff. He’s not only a great football coach, but he’ll be a great asset to our track program, as well,” said Walker. “Anytime you can add a coach that has been a head coach and athletic director, it’s a plus. He’s not only a great coach, but he’s a great person the kids will love.”

However, all that being said, Hawkins knows he still has to win over his new football family. 

“Being a new coach on a staff is always a little tough – you’re usually expected to ‘prove’ yourself,” he said. “But coming to Liberty Hill will be a little different for me because most of the staff are my friends and have been for a while, although I still need to prove myself to the entire staff as well as the players. Being an older coach gives you a little respect in the coaches’ office, but sometimes the athletes may think you’re the ‘old guy,’ But I know with time, they’ll know I love and care about them and that’s what makes a good coach-player relationship.”

Hawkins was inspired to get into coaching and teaching after witnessing first-hand the enjoyment those around him derived from the profession.

“I had several high school coaches that influenced my decision to become a coach. They all seemed to enjoy what they did every day, no matter what the situation. I knew I needed to do something that kept me active. But, I didn’t know just how much I would love the job,” he said. “I can’t think of anything more exciting and rewarding than working with children every day. I’ve been blessed to have worked with some amazing coaches and teachers in my career, not to mention the students I’ve worked with have been the best in the world. Teaching and coaching is different every day and that’s what makes it so exciting.”

In fact, seeing students and players who have been under his tutelage blossom into young adults is the most gratifying aspect of what he does, said Hawkins.

“The best part of the profession would have to be seeing the children develop into young men and women as they grow up,” said Hawkins, who teaches English. “During grades nine through 12, there’s such a transition during that time and being a part of that transition and molding is a great responsibility I feel that God has called me to do.”

For Hawkins, whether he’s on the gridiron or in the classroom, being good at one helps him excel at the other.

“I think there’s very little difference in coaching and teaching,” he said. “When out on the field, you’re teaching your players to understand the concepts of the sport better, while in the classroom sometimes you have to ‘coach the kids up’ and get them to feel comfortable with whatever concept you’re teaching in the class. I think coaching has helped me become a better teacher because you have to be able to ‘coach on the run’ as we say, because things change at a moment’s notice and in the classroom, you may have to deal with several different learning styles in one classroom and differentiate your instruction in order for every student to reach mastery of your concepts.”

As far as on-field philosophy is concerned, Hawkins isn’t one to over-complicate the game.

“Like any coach, I believe we have to use the ‘KISS’ principle – keep it simple,” he said. “When an athlete feels comfortable with his position and feels he can play the position without having to think about it, he’ll play much better. I believe any child can be
successful in athletics if they’re willing to work hard and understand failure is part of becoming good. I’m going to coach the kids hard and have high expectations, but will also love each player as if they were one of my own boys, which they really are.”

Liberty Hill is coming off a 7-6 season during which they reached the Class 4A state quarterfinals and featured a defense that allowed 23 points per game, but will be loaded with seniors, combining experience with athleticism.

“The Panthers’ defense under Coach Kent Walker has proven to be a tough, fast and aggressive defense,” said Hawkins. “I’m looking forward to working for Coach Walker and helping the defensive line to become the best they’ve been.” 

Hawkins grew up in Austin and graduated from Lanier High school (now known as Navarro Early College High School), played offensive line at Ranger Junior College in 1986-87 and completed his education at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Beginning his coaching career in Harper in 1994, he moved on to San Marcos in 1998, worked for (longtime Texas high school coach) Bruce Bush and was the defensive line coach under (former Liberty Hill head coach) Jerry Vance. Hawkins also spent time at Fort Worth Western Hill High School, where he was offensive coordinator for (current Panthers assistant) John Hall and took his first athletic director-head coach job in 2007 at Dawson High School, where he remained until his first stint in Liberty Hill from 2013-14 before making the move to Thorndale in 2015.

Hawkins is a single father of two boys – Mastin, 18, who is graduating from Thorndale this year and Maverick, a fourth-grader who will attend Liberty Hill Intermediate School next school year.

One could say Hawkins was always destined to return to Liberty Hill, as he is currently engaged to Liberty Hill High School librarian Lauren Claymon, who he will marry in June.

“I was dating Lauren before I left for Thorndale,” he said. “So, I guess it was going to happen eventually.”

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