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Artrell Hawkins works at new career

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Artrell Hawkins calls this his "demo season."

 

He is trying his hand at radio and TV, learning whatever he can and working with whoever will teach him. He wants to be part of the national media scene. And he's willing to put in the time and pay his dues to get there.

 

The former UC Bearcat football standout is becoming a regular on 700 WLW at 3 p.m. on Mondays with Eddie Fingers and Tracy Jones. He has his own show called 2 Deep Zone on

on 1530 WCKY every Tuesday night (6-7 p.m.) with former NFL player Charles Fisher and Mixed Martial Arts fighter Rich Thurston. Hawkins also joins Mo Egger at 4 p.m. every Friday for the Bengals Breakdown show live from Chi-nnati's in Madeira (3-6 p.m.).

 

"The thing that stands out most is he really works at it," Egger says. "He comes prepared. He doesn't wait for me to pepper him with questions. He has things he wants to talk about. You can really tell he wants to be good at this."

 

Egger says Hawkins brings a unique perspective. He played for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. He played for Bill Belichick in New England. He has many existing relationships with NFL players and coaches, and he's not afraid to critique teams and players, which is important for a good broadcaster.

 

"He really adds an incredible amount of credibility," Egger says. "He just got out of the league; he knows just about everybody in the game. He really brings an insider's perspective.

Every week there's always something that comes up that he can relate to."

 

Hawkins was a sideline reporter for the UC football team's 2009 spring game and was an analyst in the booth for the UC-Southeast Missouri home-opener football game that aired on FOX Sports Ohio.

 

"Artrell did a nice job of 'getting the story' from the sidelines during the spring game," producer David Ashbrock says. "Artrell's player interviews were relevant and cogent. He got more relaxed as the game progressed.   

 

"When Artrell found himself in the booth in September, I think he was a little surprised. Now that he wasn't counted on for an occasional 'hit,' he was expected to have a comment after every play. I don't think he quite expected the job to be that difficult. ... Like football, 'reps' can make all the difference between a so-so career and a great one."

Hawkins knows he needs more experience. That's why he's started
broadcasting high school football games with Channel 19 sports director Brian Giesenschlag. They worked Princeton-Oak Hills together for the Princeton Media Network and will team up for Saturday's Princeton-Middletown game (airs live on Channel 19 at 2 p.m.).

 

"I'm just doing everything I can," Hawkins says. "Pay or no pay. I don't really care. I'm in it right now for the experience and the know-how."

 

Giesenschlag says Hawkins has the kinds of attributes that can't be taught: Great voice, intelligence, playing experience. "He's just raw," Giesenschlag says. "The good thing is he knows it, and he just wants to get the experience. He's in the process of doing that."

 

Hawkins has chosen wisely for someone to emulate: Solomon Wilcots. Wilcots, too, is a former Bengals defensive back who started locally and has worked his way up to co-host of a Sirius NFL Radio show, analyst on the NFL Network and color commentator for CBS' football telecasts.

 

Wilcots has told Hawkins not to try to go too far too fast. "He says to learn the business," Hawkins says. "That's kind of what I am doing."

 

Hawkins, 32, was selected by the Bengals in the second round of the 1998 NFL draft out of UC. He played six years with the Bengals, one year with the Carolina Panthers and finished in 2005 and 2006 with the New England Patriots. His NFL career included 303 tackles, 11 interceptions and four sacks.

 

Truth be told, he was not one of those athletes who was always interested in a career in the media.

 

"I had been told my whole life about how great my voice is," Hawkins says. "But I really never had any interest in any type of communications or broadcasting. I thought I was going to be a business guy. And then I figured out pretty quickly that I don't like business."

 

In 2007, he applied for - and was accepted to - the NFL's first Broadcast Boot Camp, held over three days at NFL Films in Mount Laurel, N.J. Those interested had to submit answers to essay questions. Only 20 players were selected.

 

They got experience working in-studio with James Brown, field reporting and had a chance to simulate calling a game with Dick Vermiel, analyst and former NFL coach.

 

"I got really good feedback," Hawkins says.

 

Last year, he mentioned his new career interest to Dan Hoard, radio voice of Bearcats football and baskeball. Hoard put Hawkins in touch with Lexington-based sportscaster Alan Cutler and other broadcast colleagues. Cutler had Hawkins on air several times. And so the ball got rolling.

 

Now, here's a lesson for all athletes, college and pro.

 

Hawkins tried to be cordial with the media as a player. And now media types have gone out of their way to help Hawkins land some opportunities. "There have been a host of people who have aided me in what I am trying to do without expecting anything in return," he says.

 

"When you play football, for some reason the players have this mind-set that they're the end-all be-all," Hawkins says. "Some guys are very good at treating people the right way and other guys tend to think they're the man and they're more important than what they are. The truth of the matter is, when you're done playing football, you're done playing football. How you treat people is always going to come back to either help you or hurt you later on.

 

"I'm super happy my momma taught me how to be cordial and respect everybody and to not think more of myself than I should."

 

He's made his home in Cincinnati. His wife is from here. Hawkins thinks it's a great place to raise a family. And where else would he be as "relevant" (his word) as he is here?

 

Now the question is: How far he can go? He'd love to have a syndicated radio show. He'd be thrilled to work games for ESPN or the NFL Network. He is learning to do voice-overs.

 

"I want to take over," he says laughing - but serious. "Triple threat.

 

"It's a lot more work than I anticipated. I'm busier now than I was when I played. But it is fun, and it does keep me involved with what I know best - and that's football."

 

 

 

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