The Backstory: Football will always be considered a gladiator's sport, especially in the rough and tough 1960's. Ben Hawkins embodied the warrior attitude, playing receiver and cornerback, while returning punts and kick. The Newark, New Jersey native decided to bypass the cold East Coast winters by coming to the valley of the sun. Hawkins only donned the Maroon and Gold for two seasons and maximized both opportunities. No. 18 will always correspond to Peyton Manning, but in Tempe, Hawkins deserves the recognition.
The Player: Ben Hawkins (1963-1965)
After reading about Hawkins' collegiate stats and accomplishments, I clearly wasted the amazing BH initials. In all seriousness, it's hard to tell whether Hawkins was better on offense or defense. Readers, please make the final verdict in the comments section below!
On punt returns, Hawkins never got to pay dirt. However, he averaged a respectable 13.7 yard per punt attempt. The solid special teams output transferred over to kick returns. Hawkins averaged 20 yards per kick attempt, but still failed to get into the end zone. Some players would be content with those numbers, yet Hawkins made them appear unnotable because of other rare talents.
In 1964, Hawkins reeled in 42 receptions for 718 yards and five touchdowns. 718 yards doesn't blow anybody away, but averaging 17.09 yards per catch showcases his big time playmaking skills. The 1965 season didn't go as well on offense, as he grabbed just 36 receptions for 504 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensive prowess wins championships. ASU didn't come close to doing so in Hawkins' tenure, however he played cornerback like a champion. Hawkins consistently went up against the opposing team's top targets and won the matchup more often than not. The 6'1" 180-pound Hawkins snatched nine interceptions during his ASU career.
The Western Athletic Conference placed Hawkins on the First Team list in 1965. In addition, Time publications selected Hawkins as an All-American. Both respective awards stated he earned the spot because of his cornerback play.
In the Pros: Hawkins got drafted twice, once by the NFL and once by the AFL. In the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles picked Hawkins in the third round at 36th overall. In the AFL, the New York Jets picked Hawkins in the fifth round at 38th overall. Hawkins spurned the hometown offer and decided to play for the Eagles. At the next level, Hawkins solely played wide receiver, leaving the cornerback duties on the West Coast. Hawkins' biggest professional accomplishment came in 1967 (sophomore season), leading the NFL with 1,265 receiving yards and accumulating 10 touchdowns.
Who Wears it Now: Freshman safety James Johnson currently wears number 18. Johnson choose ASU over rival Arizona and more.