IF YOU'VE EVER HAD anything to do with high school sports in the city, you can expect a phone call from Brian Hawkins in the not-too-distant future.
Hawkins, a 1971 Northwestern graduate, is casting a very wide net in his attempt to help city football and boys basketball players get their acts together. He believes their future is at stake and someone has to do something to save them.
"This is from my heart. This is something that I feel I have to do," Hawkins said in an interview Sunday. "Don't ask me why, because I really don't know other than I came out of the city, too."
Hawkins is spearheading a drive to bring a series of marquee football and boys basketball doubleheaders to college venues around town.
The money raised would be used for college scholarships for talented athletes and for kids who aren't quite good enough to get athletic scholarships, but want to go to college and play, but don't have the money.
Hawkins would like to play as many as 16 basketball games at Morgan State's Hill Field House in February, with 16 football games to be held at the university's Hughes Stadium next fall. If the Morgan facilities aren't available because of Bears home games, Hawkins said he'd try to get Towson or Johns Hopkins.
During the week leading into the games, Hawkins plans to bring former city athletes and coaches who have been successful on and/or off the playing field after graduation to set today's players straight about how life really is.
The list of invitees presently includes luminaries like Pete Pompey, who is preparing to retire after a legendary coaching career at Dunbar and Edmondson, and Wayne Frazier, a prominent local contractor, but the list is bound to grow.
"We want to introduce them to a larger venue, both athletically and academically," Hawkins said. "We want to get them thinking about the next step, as opposed to 'What do I do now, when I'm not a high school basketball player or football player?' Not everybody goes to the NBA or the NFL, and you have to be prepared for life."
Hawkins, who lives near Lake Montebello, says he is appalled by the conduct he sees displayed by today's athletes in particular and kids in general. A parent himself, Hawkins says he can't believe the way kids dress and the way they talk, and wants to get into their heads that those traits won't work in a broader context.
"Somewhere along the line, somebody made a mistake, as far as I'm concerned and now it's starting to backfire on us and now we're having these folks in our society unprepared and it's coming out of my paycheck and your paycheck," Hawkins said. "We've got to worry about do we get robbed or yoked on our way home from work because no one's giving them the attention that they need and helping them prepare themselves."
The visiting speakers, Hawkins said, also will counsel the athletes about what to do and how to react when their days in the sports limelight are over, whether by injury or because they can't play anymore.
"The ... dark side of it is, you can get into alcoholism and drug abuse, because the adulation's gone and there's nothing to replace that white hot light or that energy or adrenaline flow," Hawkins said. "All that stuff goes out the window, and before you know it, you're trying to compensate for it with something else. Now, you've got a real problem."
The overwhelming majority of city public school athletes are black, but Hawkins, a mortgage brokerage, intends to tap into every segment of the community to get this project moving.
"I'm going to try to make this a bipartisan thing," Hawkins said. "No politics, but right now, while we've got a lot of black guys, we need a few white guys to help us out. The kids can't think it's an all-black group. I don't want them to think that, because the world is not all black. The kids will need help from the other side of the fence to give them hope."
The plan has the blessing of city schools athletic director Bob Wade, who staged a pair of football doubleheaders this fall at Morgan State.
"I applaud him and anyone in the community that wants to help out," Wade said yesterday.
Hawkins' plan is an ambitious one and likely will cost at least $200,000 to get it flying, considering the scholarship funding and the costs to rent and use the Morgan facilities.
But in an area where Howard County residents and businesses can raise $1 million for stadium lights, where thousands of dollars are collected to help fallen linebacker Van Brooks, a couple of hundred thousand dollars can surely be culled to save a kid or two or 10 from heading down the wrong road, right?