Call them flakes, misfits or screwballs. They are athletes whose offbeat antics mystify teammates and fascinate fans and, over three centuries, Baltimore has been blessed with its share. The Baltimore Sun is counting down The Daffy Dozen, the 12 most memorable characters in the city’s sports lore. Today’s oddball, No. 5, is former Baltimore Colts running back-wide receiver Alex Hawkins, who played for the team from 1959-1965 and 1967-1968.
He was the Houdini of football, though not because of his moves on the field. No NFL player ever evaded more bed checks or accrued more fines than the elusive Alex Hawkins.
"I may be the first man in history to play 10 years and wind up owing the league money," he said.
Once, Hawkins sneaked out of a hotel window by going down a ladder, only to find coach Weeb Ewbank waiting for him on the ground. Another time, he was nabbed while hanging out the window on a rope made of bedsheets. More often, Hawkins got away — like the night he escaped from a San Francisco hotel, hopped a plane to Lake Tahoe, whooped it up in a casino and sneaked back into his room by 7:30 a.m.
"I have learned that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that sports builds character," he said.
The Colts put up with his shenanigans because Hawkins fit their needs . Rugged and resolute, "The Hawk" galvanized the suicide squads, as they were then called, and was named the first special teams captain in league history. As such, the unsung Hawkins earned the nickname "Captain Who?"
In October 1967, he received the game ball after catching a touchdown pass in a 17-13 victory over the Washington Redskins. Two nights later, Hawkins was arrested during a gambling raid in the back room of the Plaza Barber Shop in Towson at 4:45 a.m. Asked what he was doing there, he replied, "You know how bad I hate to wait in lines."
Acquitted, Hawkins played the following Sunday and caught another touchdown pass in a 13-10 win over the Green Bay Packers.
When he quit football in 1969, The Hawk listed his reasons, including:
"[NFL commissioner] Pete Rozelle frowns on unsavory characters and I don't have a friend who's not one.
"Every barbershop I've been in lately has gone back to cutting hair."
Hawkins threw himself a retirement party that lasted four days. He later worked as a garbage collector, wrote several cookbooks and served as a TV football commentator. Years later, he told The Sun that his only regret in leaving Baltimore was not having ridden a horse, naked, down York Road.