Originally published April 27, 2013 at 02:07p.m., updated April 28, 2013 at 12:08a.m.

KU offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson drafted in fifth round by Cincinnati Bengals

Senior offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson leads his squad through warmups during a morning practice on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at Memorial Stadium. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Senior offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson leads his squad through warmups during a morning practice on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at Memorial Stadium. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo


Kansas University offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson spent most of Saturday hanging out at his older brother’s house in Lawrence with friends and family, eating, smiling and waiting for the official word about where he would begin his NFL career.

The news came via a phone call from Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis a little before 2 p.m., and, with his support system smiling and stuffing their faces around him, Hawkinson quietly stepped outside and took the call.

“My agent had been talking to teams throughout the day, and he told me that the Bengals were interested,” said Hawkinson, whom the Bengals took with the 23rd pick in the fifth round, No. 156 overall. “It was just crazy. Just a great feeling of relief to finally get that call.”

Hawkinson becomes the second former KU offensive lineman selected in the NFL Draft by Cincinnati. The Bengals made former KU All-American Anthony Collins the 112th overall selection in Round 4 of the 2008 draft. Although Hawkinson and Collins’ careers never overlapped, Hawkinson said their paths had crossed.

“I remember early in my career he would come back and work out with the old staff,” Hawkinson said of Collins. “We kind of said what’s up, but nothing more really. It’s great to know that you have another guy on your future team from your alma mater.”

Although the two former Jayhawks play the same position, the addition of Hawkinson does not necessarily spell bad news for Collins. That’s one of the things that inspired the Bengals to make Hawkinson the first Jayhawk drafted since Dezmon Briscoe was picked in the sixth round in 2010.

“They said they liked my versatility,” Hawkinson said. “(Bengals offensive line) coach (Paul) Alexander said he thought I could play all three positions: tackle, guard and even possibly sliding down to center.”

Alexander confirmed as much in a news conference announcing the pick.

“He’s going to play all the spots and make everyone’s seat a little uncomfortable,” Cincinnati’s O-line coach said. “Whoever has a bad practice, I’m going to put (Hawkinson) right behind him the next day.”

The 6-foot-5, 298-pound Hawkinson, who leaves KU with a school record 48 consecutive starts, said he was thrilled with the opportunity to join the Bengals, a playoff team in 2011 and 2012, and added that he never thought this would be his path when he signed with Kansas out of McPherson High.

“Playing sports all throughout my life, you always have the thought in the back of your mind that if you have the chance to play in college that’s great,” Hawkinson said. “I was always just focused on that next step, enjoying my time at KU. As my career unfolded here, I realized that it was possible to make it to the next level, and the fact that it happened today is a pretty crazy feeling.”

Jayhawks earn free agent invites

Fellow-combine invitee Bradley McDougald, a 6-foot, 210-pound safety who many expected would be selected, went undrafted but wasted no time securing a free-agent deal with Kansas City. McDougald was one of three former Jayhawks to get a shot from the nearby Chiefs. Quarterback Dayne Crist and defensive end Toben Opurum also were targeted by Kansas City, and all three will report to Chiefs mini-camp on May 9.

In other undrafted free agent news: cornerback Greg Brown caught on with the San Diego Chargers; offensive lineman Trevor Marrongelli was invited to camp by the Detroit Lions and linebacker Tunde Bakare received a camp invite from the Chicago Bears.

None of KU’s free agents are guaranteed anything. They first have to make it through mini-camp and then survive a round of cuts leading up to the finalization of each team’s 53-man roster late this summer. Despite those odds against them, their message was unanimous and best summed up in a tweet from Opurum.

“Chiefs mini-camp invite,” Opurum wrote. “All I asked for was an opportunity.”


Bobby Burch 9 years, 3 months ago

Way to go Tanner! You earned it. Thanks for representing KU with class.

W Keith Swinehart II 9 years, 3 months ago

Great news, Tanner. Congratulations. You earned it, and learned so much in life to get there. Work your butt off. You have the stuff!

spenc1324 9 years, 3 months ago

Congrats tanner you deserve it keep up the hard work and show the league what the Jayhawks are all about. Rock chalk

kay_you 9 years, 3 months ago

Hard to imagine an NFL caliber player on a team that was so bad but I'm thrilled.

Congrats Tanner!

Rob Bedford III 9 years, 3 months ago

And if they were all #1 recruits like Wiggins, KU might have won a few more games last season.

kay_you 9 years, 3 months ago

Touche! We definitely have a fair weather fan base.

Phil Leister 9 years, 3 months ago

Gonna be a tough battle for Crist. Obviously, KC has Alex Smith as their guy. But they just signed Tyler Bray out of Tennesse and have Chase Daniel on the roster. Man I'd love to see Crist beat out Daniel.

Andy Godwin 9 years, 3 months ago

They just need arms in training camp as not to wear down the QBs likely to make the 53 man roster.

Dave Benjamin 9 years, 3 months ago

Congrats Tanner! Good luck at the next level and make us proud!

Brian Sharp 9 years, 3 months ago

Hey Hawk ups One of many spring game highlights from your role models to the west. Enjoy,,,, and oh yeah EMAW BABY

kay_you 9 years, 3 months ago

I'd troll the kittens website but I don't think Manhattan has a newspaper. MEOW BABY

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 3 months ago

Congrads Tanner. Of course it is especially sweet that he is a small-town Kansas kid. I think his athleticism is going to make some teams realize they missed a gem down the road. His strength will improve and I expect he will be starting in year two or three.

Michael Sillman 9 years, 3 months ago

This is what will turn around the football program. If recruits see that they can get to the NFL through KU they will sign up.

Congrats to you, Hawkinson. You've done more than help yourself.

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