In the new media wave, especially for former athletes, Andrew Hawkins is that dude. He embodies the mantra that Uninterrupted (one of the many companies he gets checks from) stands for.
More than an athlete. He is an executive, a host, an on-camera personality, confidant and advice giver, and a certified comedian in the digital space. I'm sure I'm missing something.
You may say, well this guy had every opportunity in the world to be successful. Not exactly. Hawk, played college ball at Toledo, went undrafted, played his way from the CFL to the Browns and Bengals (not exactly perennial winning franchises), and still found a way to have success when he retired.
Hawk went into detail on how he went about it on the most recent episode of Bussin' with the Boys.
There are so many lessons to be learned from the blueprint he created.
First, Hawk took advantage of his time playing in the NFL and planted seeds, building relationships long before he would ever need them. Every offseason, he would buy 50-100 game jerseys, and send a signed jersey with a handwritten note to people he looked up to, wanted to get advice from, or maybe people he just wanted to get coffee or lunch with to get to know more. Just like sending those thank you notes your mom always pestered you about, it paid off--literally. Hawk noted that "those relationships [he] built through that are still what keeps [him] afloat to this day Because people remember how you treated them when you were on top."
Most influential people are used to being hit up for something. Can you get me a job? Can you introduce me to so and so? Can you invest in my project?
Take. Take. Take.
What Hawk did was rare. He established rapport when there was a balance in the hierarchy. These people LOVED that a starting NFL receiver would make such a gesture and wanted to connect. If he would have done that AFTER he retired, it would have looked desperate and tacky. It would have also been fake.
The second brilliant thing that Hawk did, (sort of a similar move) was to start working towards his post-NFL career while he was still playing. Hawk spent two years convincing Maverick Carter of the value he’d bring to Uninterrupted. Mav brought him on as the company’s first intern. Hawkins refused to take payment. Instead, he wanted to show his value and just learn the business of sports digital media, all while he was taking classes in New York to get a Master's degree and training for the upcoming season.
Once Hawk retired, there was a job waiting for him at Uninterrupted in an executive role and later, he got the opportunity to be in front of the camera as well.
"I never thought I was going to be able to be in media. I never won a Super Bowl. I played for the Bengals and Browns. I never made it to the Pro Bowl. I came into the league from a reality show in Canada. So I thought it was never going to happen."
He was wrong.
The lesson? Your status, background and accolades only help so much. What truly will propel you into a new field is your preparation, cultivation of relationships, and personality. In a crowded space like sports media, that will be the difference.
Don't talk about it. Be about it. Hawk is a perfect example of someone who was both very aware of the present, but also cognizant of where he wanted to be in the future. He used one to leverage the other.
The entire interview with the Boys is well worth listening to in its entirety.