One of the top heavyweight wrestlers in the area, Old Mill's Aaron Hawkins has shown over the past two seasons that he's a natural in football, as well. Just a year after first picking up the sport, the senior is considered among the elite defensive linemen in Anne Arundel County, helping his 7-1 team give up fewer than 13 points per game.
In a recent interview, Hawkins spoke about his transition from wrestling to football, his penchant for contact sports and his less well-known softer side.
You're a senior, yet this is only your second season of organized football. What made you want to get into it so late?
I was coming out of the wrestling room after my sophomore year, and Coach [Damian] Ferragamo saw me and says, "About how much do you weigh?" I said, "About 260." He said, "Do you want to play football?" I told him I'd never really played before, and he said, "Well, come out this year and we'll see how you do." Then I tried out and made the team. I guess I picked it up pretty quick.
You went on to make All-County in your first season. Were you pretty surprised when you were selected?
Oh yeah, I was surprised. I knew I had done pretty well for my first year, but I never thought I'd get All-County. That's something most four-year players never get, so it was a pretty big honor.
Your other big sport is wrestling, where you took third in the heavyweight class at the state meet last winter. Do you feel your skills on the mat translate to the field?
Well, when I'm on the wrestling mat, it kind of helps me improve my sense of balance on the field. Also, a lot of times on the defensive line we're always locking up with the offensive linemen. It's just exactly like heavyweight wrestling, where we lock up with our hands and have to do a lot of hand fighting.
We're almost at that time of year when you'll have to transition from football to wrestling. How difficult of an adjustment is that for you?
My knees always take a good beating during football, but it's more helpful than it is negative. I think going from one to the other kind of keeps me in the mind-set of going to practice every day and kind of gets my body working to be ready for the endurance needed for wrestling. Then again, there's the fact that if we do go to the playoffs in football, they can run all the way to Dec. 6, and wrestling season starts Nov. 15. I might miss a tournament or two, and since I'm the starting heavyweight they need me in there. It's difficult to jump back right in and be expected to wrestle in the next two days.
You lost by a point to Terrence Stephens from Quince Orchard in the semifinals of last season's state tournament. Both of you will be back for your senior seasons this winter. How much have you been looking forward to a rematch?
Because he beat me, I feel like I need to go back and take it back. Quince Orchard won states for football last year, so I keep seeing the school's name, and it reminds me of that. I'll be seeing him, hopefully, in the finals this year.
You also play rugby over the summer with Arden Youth Rugby. Do you find that to be even more physical than football?
Oh, definitely. Just this past season I had five stitches, a concussion and a pulled hamstring.
You choose to play some pretty rough sports. Is that just your nature? Do you just like to hit?
I think I'm a pretty gentle guy, but I do like contact sports. I play lacrosse, too, and that's definitely a contact sport, as well.
Any other hobbies?
I play acoustic guitar, too - a little modern, but also a lot of the classic oldies.
Do you find playing the guitar a nice respite from all of the physical contact you get in sports?
Definitely. I'll even bring my guitar to school sometimes and play in the lunchroom.