From The NFL To Working With LeBron James: Andrew Hawkins On The Art Of Reinvention

hawk2Photo Credit: Eric P. Mull

Andrew Hawkins has had the career that most could only dream of. He played six seasons in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, and announced his retirement from football in 2017. But instead of coasting on his athletic prowess, Hawkins reinvented himself and his career, going on to become an Emmy-nominated commentator for ESPN—he just inked a contract to host their popular show, SportsCenter, via Snapchat; he is slated for 80-100 snap shows this year and estimating about 3 million views a show.
Additionally, “Hawk” is the Director of Business Development for Uninterrupted (LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s company) and hosts a podcast with Uninterrupted. Prior to his official retirement from football, Hawk completed his Masters in Sports Management at Columbia University’s Business School (commuting weekly from Florida to NYC) to set himself up for success after his football career ended. Here, the new Los Angeles resident discusses how he set himself up for his future success, what it’s like to work with LeBron James, and which athletes are the ones to watch for the 2018-2019 season.
hawk1Photo Credit: Eric P. Mull

When did you start thinking about your backup plan?

My entire life all I heard was how it was going to be impossible for me to play in the NFL. So, my goal was literally to play in one NFL football game, because a part of me felt that was all of capable of. From the day I accomplished that goal to the day I retired, in the back of my mind, I felt like the clock was going to strike midnight and my carriage would turn back to a pumpkin at any moment. With that in mind, my worst nightmare was being unprepared for a life after football, so as soon as I accomplished my one-GAME goal, I began planning and preparing for my next act.

How did you come to work with Maverick Carter and LeBron James at Uninterrupted? Have you learned anything in particular from them? 

I’m the Director of Business Development for Uninterrupted, which is a digital media company founded by Maverick Carter and LeBron James. Honestly, being able to work under Maverick has been the most beneficial aspect of my transition. The things Maverick has been able to accomplish as businessman in sports and his work with LeBron James has transcended how people view athletes and their off-the-playing surface endeavors. I’ve obviously worked with countless sports companies and platforms, but what made my experience with Maverick different is that he is TRULY passionate about the development of athletes, changing the narrative, and athletes becoming more. I actually started out as his intern at Uninterrupted while I was still playing and finishing my master’s degree at Columbia, and getting the chance to see him live was eye-opening for me. There wasn’t an aspect of the business he didn’t show me, there wasn’t a conversation he didn’t let me in on, or there wasn’t any information he didn’t make me privy to. He pulled back the curtain in a way I don’t believe others would have because he understood how important it was for me to get the experience and see that side of things as I geared up to pivot away from the field. So, once I finally retired and had some great opportunities on the table, joining Maverick and Uninterrupted was really a no-brainer for me.

Hawk attends Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Sports 2017 at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion

Photo Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency:Shutterstock

What is the greatest life lesson you’ve learned from your time in the NFL?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that life transitions are actually the biggest opportunity there is and should be treated as such. Its human nature to be scared of change, resist the unknown, and fear deviation. It’s said a million ways, but without change there is no growth! Early on in my journey I was the same way, but looking back on my playing career, being able to prepare for pivots and transitions has been the very reason I’ve succeeded in any of my ventures. Because in football the transitions come out of necessity, they become normal and I became immune to the fear. After I became immune to fear of the unknown, I began looking for the opportunity in them. Although, experiencing the cuts or having to move my family to a different city wasn’t always fun, they not only developed me professionally, but also gave me an expertise in just rolling with the punches, and that skill has helped me more now than I would have never imagine.

Which athletes in each field (in your opinion) are the ones to beat in the 2018-2019 season and why?

Two athletes stick out to me in particular. The obvious one is LeBron James. Not only is he the best basketball player on the planet, when you look at the things he has been able to accomplish of the field, he really sets the bar high. From doing TV shows, documentaries, and movies, to opening schools and shifting the generations mind set in his community. He’s taken the phrase “More than an athlete” to levels we’ve never seen and the scariest thing is, he’s just getting started. On the NFL side, I am super impressed with Richard Sherman. He is a guy who has never let his status as an athlete define him and instead, uses his voice to speak his mind. Beyond being a vocal leader, he’s an investor, a business leader, and a union leader. The more you watch him, the more you realize he’s had a plan all along and he’s executing it at a high level.

What was your personal career highlight (thus far)?

My personal career highlight was actually nothing that happened on the field. The proudest moment of my career was when I wore a t-shirt back in 2014 calling for justice for an innocent 12 year old boy named Tamir Rice, who I believe had been wrongfully killed by law enforcement. The reason it was the highlight of my career, is because I was scared to death to go through with it. This was at a time when it wasn’t the norm as it is now, so to me I was really stepping out on an island. I second guessed my decision so many times because I knew I had nothing to personally gain from it and everything to lose, but that’s what made it special to me. Despite my apprehension, despite me having every opportunity to change my mind and not face whatever backlash or ridicule that was coming, I made the conscious decision to follow my heart and my instinct, which to me, was speaking up for someone who didn’t have the opportunity. Do this day I recall those feelings when I’m faced with a difficult decision, and I use to remind myself to follow my heart, and that gives me peace.

Follow Hawkins on Instagram and Twitter at @Hawk