ATLANTA -- When it comes to having a good time, Alex Hawkins, who seems more mythical than real, is at the head of the class. He's 56 going on 15, which means he's an adult who has never totally taken leave of adolescence.
Hawkins remains the perpetual free spirit. A beloved character who played hard, on and off the field, and refuses to look back or offer a word of regret. In 1976, he sold a refuse business for $400,000 instead of taking a stock option that brokers tell him would now be worth $60 million. His company slogan was unforgettable: "We'll Talk Trash With You."
A natural element of the Hawkins personality is to never take himself too seriously. He'll never let anything stand in the way of the kind of excitement an all-night card game represents.
"Maybe I'm mellowing," he was saying in a moment of reflection. "Last year, I drove up to West Virginia to see the leaves changing color. When I was a kid, the family didn't own a car so I never got to the Canaan Valley in October."
Hawkins doesn't want for friends. He's the veritable Pied Piper. If you want to be where the action is then ride along on the "Hawkins Express." Guaranteed, he'll either find it or create it.
"Right now, I got two girlfriends," he said. "They are wonderful. One is blue-blood society; the other a redneck. I think they understand me."
The fact Baltimore was passed over for Jacksonville in the NFL expansion effort has annoyed him. "All they got around Jacksonville are loblolly pines and a bunch of crackers," Hawkins said, "and to the East, they got a lot of fish. A whole ocean's worth.
"When Baltimore had that exhibition game and welcomed the old Colts back, I believe it was the most emotional moment the NFL ever knew. The game was on national TV but they cut away at halftime for something ridiculous. Otherwise, the whole country would have been a part of it. I know I was crying and so was another Colt alongside of me, Doug Eggers."
Hawkins believes Charlotte is a quality NFL location, mainly based on the respect he has for the owner, a former Baltimore teammate, Jerry Richardson.
"Too bad Jerry committed to Charlotte before Baltimore got in zTC the running because he would have gotten it for any city he was with," Hawkins said. "The man helping him, Max Muhleman, is a marketing genius."
From the players he knew on the Colts, it's his opinion four of them -- John Unitas, Jim Parker, Lenny Moore and Gino Marchetti -- could have played in any era of the NFL.
"Mike Curtis could have, too, but he wouldn't have been as dominant," said Hawkins. "The other four would have been as outstanding now as they were back then."
Several times a year Hawkins visits Baltimore to see John "Rocky" Thornton, Pat Healy, Hughie Elliott (known to him as "Joy Boy") and Henry Amos, a former Michigan State boxer and a deep-thinker he truly admires.
"I was drinking one time with Henry and he mentioned something so classically profound I wrote it down," Hawkins said. "This is what he said: 'I got no money, credit or credibility. I've got no family and only a few friends. I'm past 60 years of age, my health is failing and it's too late for a comeback. My future is grim but certain -- I plan to die.' "
As author of two published books, "Captain Who" and "It's My Story And I'm Sticking To It," he found out only best-sellers earn the serious money. Right now, though, there's a hit country song, called "That's My Story," co-written by LeRoy Parnell and Tony Haseldes and sung by Collin Raye, that is so similar to Hawkins' tale that it has him engaging an attorney for a possible plagiarism lawsuit.
"I've been all over this land," he was saying in his Atlanta apartment, "and there's no place like Baltimore. It's my all-time favorite. It's a city that'll never run out of characters. My only problem with Baltimore is I could only take six months living there. It takes too much out of you. I had to get away for a rest."
Hawkins once contrasted the difference in playing for the perenially-contending Colts and the woeful Atlanta Falcons by saying, "I wasn't good enough to play for a bad team but I was bad enough to play for a good team."
Alex Hawkins represents miles of smiles, non-stop, and sees to it by dint of his own effervescent personality that an enjoyable time is had by all -- be it 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. or any hour in between.