Going into this past weekend's NFL Draft, Kansas football had not had a player selected since 2010, just before the program fell into dark times. Symbolically, as the program is in the midst of a comeback, that streak came to an end with the drafting of offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson in the fifth round with the 156th pick overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.
The honor is the culmination of hard work, dedication and leadership by the McPherson, Kan. native.
"I was expecting to have my name called sometime today, but I was surprised it came that early," Hawkinson said in a statement. "It was a really good phone call to get. It is a big relief to get this part of the process over with and know where I will be playing. I am very excited to get to Cincinnati and get to work."
Hawkinson is the latest Jayhawk to be drafted by the Bengals, who also drafted former wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe in 2010, as well as offensive lineman Anthony Collins in 2008. Collins, a member of Kansas' 2007 Orange Bowl champion team is still with the Bengals.
As for Hawkinson, he became a rock for the Kansas offensive line. Originally recruited as a tight end, he earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors from the conference's coaches, the Associated Press, Phil Steele Magazine and the San Antonio Express News in 2012, while starting all 12 games at left tackle. He finished his Jayhawk career having started a school record 48 consecutive starts. His 48 career starts and 48 straight starts are both team records.
While Hawkinson was the only member of this year's team to be selected in the draft, he isn't the only player who will be getting an opportunity in the NFL.
Quarterback Dayne Crist, defensive end Toben Opurum and safety Bradley McDougald all signed free agent deals with the Kansas City Chiefs and will report to rookie camp with the team May 9th, while safety Greg Brown agreed to a deal with the San Diego Chargers.