Threesome Ready To Say Goodbye

Nov. 15, 2008

By Michael Jeremiah


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Today's game against UCLA will mark the final home game for 19Husky football players. While some of the players in that group havegrabbed media attention during their careers or have generally beenin the spotlight, there are a handful of players that have snuck underthe radar and had an arduous journey to don the purple and gold onSaturdays.

Ryan Perkins, Jared Ballman and Charles Hawkins Jr. have eachgone through their share of difficult times during their careers, but havefought throughout because of their love and dedication to football andthe University of Washington.

Hawkins Jr. is a senior wide receiver that transferred to Washingtonin 2006 after spending two years at Graceland University in Iowa. Astandout athlete that excelled in both basketball and football, Hawkinsjumped at the opportunity to play for Coach Tyrone Willingham atWashington.

He was ecstatic about the opportunity to play in the Pac-10, butunderstood that the task of breaking into the rotation at wide receiverwould be easier said than done. Already inexperienced with the playbookcompared to other receivers that had been in the program for years,Hawkins suffered an early setback when coaches asked him to switchfrom the outside to learn the slot position.

Learning another position would be tough, but thanks to the examplehis father had set for him, he was ready for the challenge. Hawkins'father, Charles Hawkins Sr., had inspired his son to work throughadversity by raising him in a single-parent home in Chicago.


Charles Hawkins has earned a scholarship as a junior and senior after originally walking onto the team.


'Initially it was kind of tough but I knew it was going to be. I kindof expected the worst and didn't get the worst,' said Hawkins of hisposition change. 'It was tough, but it was the route that I chose and itpaid off in the end.'

Hawkins, originally a walk on to the squad, was paid off for all hishard work when he received a scholarship as a junior. This season, ascholarship was not guaranteed, but once fall camp got underway, hewas once again rewarded with one.

Hawkins has also been paid off with a spot in the rotation at widereceiver. After learning two different receiver positions in the offense,he has been able to use his versatility to contribute. Receivers withcollege experience are at a premium this year, and Hawkins provides asteady veteran hand at that position for the Huskies. Hawkins has eightreceptions for 75 yards on the year and is anxious to improve on thosetotals in the next three games to help the team succeed.

'It's a huge to deal [to play],' said Hawkins. 'But at the same time,I feel like if we're not winning, [then] I'm not doing enough. So I alwayssee what I can do more to step my game up.'

The journey of Perkins is a little different from that of Hawkins, butthe rewards have been similar. He came to Washington as a freshmanin 2005 after a prolific kicking career at North Thurston High (Olympia,Wash.) in which he was named an All-American punter. Perkins wasexpected to compete for the placekicking or punting duties in 2006. Hischances of securing the placekicking job looked good, as his strong legs(Perkins can kick and punt with both legs) had yielded a career-long fieldgoal of 55 yards.

That plan was derailed during the 2006 Spring Game, when ateammate ran into Perkins on a punt. The hit resulted in a catastrophicknee injury that required reconstructive knee surgery. Perkinsrehabilitated his knee so that he was able to return for the 2007season, and that season went 15-for-20 on field goals and hit 45-of-46PATs.

Perkins has handled most the field goal duties this year for theHuskies, connecting on five-of-seven attempts in 2008. But continueddeterioration of his knee will force Perkins to medically retire at the endof the season with one year of eligibility remaining. Although his careerhas been altered by injury, Perkins knows that he has learned somethingfrom his tribulations.

'I learned that hard work pays off,' said Perkins. 'It's a characterbuilder. I had to pay the price, but I got a free education out of it.'

Perkins has shown that he's not ready to move on just yet though, ashe connected on a career-high four field goals (34, 38, 21, 20) againstArizona State last week. Perkins hopes to continue on at Washingtonnext year as a graduate student, studying in Washington's IntercollegiateAthletic Leadership program.

Ballman is another special teams contributor in his last season. Hecame to Washington to try to win all kicking positions, and has performedall punting, kickoff and field goal duties for the Huskies this year. He isthe primary punter and kickoff specialist for the Huskies, and attemptsthe field goals that are 40 yards or longer.



Jared Ballman's father passed away days before he was scheduled to arrive on the UW campus.


Ballman has had to persevere through the hardest of times in hiscollege career, as he lost his father just weeks before transferring toWashington from Grossmount College. His time as a Husky footballplayer has not only been marked by growth as a football player, but as aperson coping with extreme tragedy.

'I'm just coming out of Washington a better person -- a strongerperson mentally because I have the will power now to get over certainsituations,' said Ballman, who was appreciative for Coach Willingham'ssupport through hard times. 'Going through rough times and being astonger person, that's helped me the most and that's what I've gottenout of Washington football.'

After the season, Ballman hopes to train to compete at the professionallevel. Playing in the National Football League is his dream, and the nextfew months of preparation will be crucial to fulfilling that dream. Hisversatility and experience at all three of the kicking positions should helpBallman's chances to catch on in the professional ranks.

With hard times in the past, the three all expressed the importancethat Saturday will have. It is their final time to walk down the tunnel asa player. It is their last time to play in front of the Husky faithful, and oneof their last chances to leave another lasting memory of their career atWashington. There is no doubt, according to all three, that emotions willbe running high as they play their final game at Husky Stadium.

'It will be tough, because it will be the last time that we will playthere,' said Hawkins. 'I'll try my best not to think about it, because itwould be too emotional, but you also want to take it in. It will make methink about all the other times that we have run out and all the gamesthat we've had before.'

'It's going to be pretty crazy,' said Ballman. 'I've played my last twoyears here and I've gotten really close with the team, so it's going to bepretty emotional. It's also about playing the last game at home with theteam too.'

The three all expressed that one of the main things that they willmiss is their teammates. Whether it has been for the full four years oran abbreviated career of two years, they have all competed side by sideon the gridiron.

According to Hawkins, the camaraderie that comes from competitionis what inspires him to press on for the team. They fight all weektogether in practice, and on Saturdays have to protect each other andtheir home stadium against opponents. Although it has been hard thisyear, the fight, tenacity and dedication to past and present Husky playersis what being a Husky means, and nothing can get in the way ofpreserving those qualities.

They aren't players who have grabbed a lot of headlines, but eachhas carved their own niche in the program. They each understand andappreciate the opportunity that has been afforded to them to play at astoried program like Washington. Each has fought through obstaclesof varying difficulty as Huskies, and whether those obstacles stick withthem as an injury, loss, or transition, they are proud to have taken part inthe tradition of Husky football.

'I can say that being a Husky, going to school and playing sports here,has definitely improved who I am as a person,' said Perkins, who walkswith a noticeable limp 18 months after his knee injury. 'I don't regretanything and I've loved my time here. I'm fortunate to have been a partof the program, not only on campus but a part of the athletic program.I love it and I hope everybody that gets the opportunity seizes it.'

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