LAYTON — The time has come for “Hawk” to spread his wings and take flight for life’s next great adventure.
Brad Hawkins has spent the last 38 years — far more than half of his life — teaching and coaching high school kids, the last 36 of which were spent at Layton High School, where he coached three different sports and, since 1988, has served as the Lancers’ athletic director.
Now, at age 63, he’s decided to retire so he can finally relax a bit and spend more time with his wife of 40 years, Laurie, their children and grandchildren, and do those recreational things he enjoys doing most — swimming, bicycling, fishing, hiking and snow skiing.
Over a career spanning almost four decades of working with teenage athletes, Hawkins has seen plenty of changes — some good, some not so good.
He was a three-sport athlete at Bonneville High School in Washington Terrace, near Ogden, but in this age of specialization, those kinds of all-around athletes have become almost a vanishing breed.
“That’s the biggest challenge for us, as far as coaches,” Hawkins said. “In athletics, everybody specializes nowadays. Everybody has their own pitching coach or their own quarterback coach. And as a coach, you just pull your hair out because these kids, they come in and want to play for you, but they want to listen to their pitching coach, too.
“There’s a lot of people that just play one sport, and I think it’s hurt athletics, especially at a school like Layton High School because for years, we were the smallest 5A school in the state of Utah. The year we played for the state championship in football (2007), we were the smallest 5A school in the state.
“We were playing with 1,500 kids against schools like Davis High School with 2,100 or 2,200. The thing about it is if you have kids that specialize and do not play two or three sports, then you’re losing some of your best players. And that makes it tough,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest changes that I’ve seen as far as athletics is specialization (along with the advent of comp teams and club sports, which can pull athletes away from playing on their high school teams). … It’s kinda sad.”
Hawkins knows all about the value of playing multiple sports and playing them at a high level. After graduating in 1971 from Bonneville High, where he played football, basketball and baseball, Hawkins attended Weber State College on a football scholarship, playing safety, and also walked on to the Wildcats’ baseball team, where he wound up being the starting first baseman by the time his freshman season got under way.
“I was the fastest guy on the team and I played first base,” laughed Hawkins, who has fond memories of playing at Ogden’s going-going-gone John Affleck Park and helping the Wildcats win the Big Sky Conference championship and advance to the NCAA regionals against Arizona State.
He played both sports at Weber State for three years and, when the school dropped its baseball program after his junior year, he transferred to BYU for his final year of college baseball in 1975.
“What a great experience for me,” Hawkins said of his senior season spent with Cougars coach Glen Tuckett. “I mean, that man, he changed a lot of things in me. Probably the one year I spent with Glen Tuckett was as big a life-changing thing for me ever.
“I never met a guy that was just so passionate about the game and passionate about the kids. … He’s a great guy and a great coach, and we had a good team.”
Indeed, BYU went undefeated in the Western Athletic Conference that year, and Hawkins went on to play professional baseball for three years in the Boston Red Sox minor league system, where he had teammates like pitcher Bruce Hurst and future Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs.
“We had seven guys on that (Elmira, New York) team that made it to the big leagues,” Hawkins said, “and we won the New York-Penn League that year (1976) by about 20 games.”
As good a baseball player as he was, Hawkins could see that although he was perhaps the fastest player in the entire organization, he’d been plagued by a back injury he’d suffered while playing football and was “a ways away” from the talent level of some of his minor league teammates.
But he had a desire to get into coaching and, in 1979, he got an opportunity to coach and teach at Bountiful High School, where he was an assistant coach for two years in football and baseball. Hawkins was on the staff under head football coach Paul Waite, whose 1979 team won the 3A state championship (there were only four classifications back then).
Then in 1981, he learned of an opening for the baseball coaching job at Layton High — and the rest is history.
He got the job and was the Lancers’ head baseball coach for 16 years and also spent 10 years as an assistant on the football and basketball staffs, including one season as Layton’s head football coach. He took on the AD role in 1988 and, along the way, also spent three seasons helping his longtime friend, Steve Gardner, coach baseball at Utah Valley State College, where they won a couple of junior college conference championships.
Hawkins said that over the last 10 years or so, he’s mellowed a great deal. “When I first started, I was always full-go, 100 percent,” he recalled. “It was gonna be my way or the trail way” — after watching his son, Dustin, participate in junior high and high school sports.
“You watch how people treat ’em, and you sit back and evaluate,” Hawkins said. “You see some coaches who spend all their time yelling at kids, and you ask yourself, ‘Am I that way? Do I do those things?'”
On Friday, he reflected back on the many great experiences he’s had during his career, laughing as he recalled how the Weber State baseball team would travel by station wagon for its road games all over the Western U.S. during his days with the Wildcats in the early ’70s.
Some memories, though, tug at his heart.
“It’s been a tough week for me,” he admitted. “The thing about it is, you think back of everything you’ve done as far as coaching, and sometimes you’ll run into one of your former players and they’ll give ya a big hug and start talking to you.
“And there are those opposing coaches who we used to battle our butts off against and we’d yell at each other sometimes but, at end of the day, we called each other on the phone that night and laughed about it.
“The best thing is the relationships you have with the kids and the coaches and the good times that you have together. It’s just like coach Tuckett said many times to us: ‘Guys, I don’t have a job. I go to school every day and play with the kids.’ And that’s really how it is. I mean, there’s times when you’d like to pull out your hair because you’re working with 16- and 17-year-old kids.
“I never had any idea that I’d be at Layton High School for 36 years,” Hawkins said. “You think of that right now and that’s crazy, because people don’t do that any more. There’s sure a lot of great memories there.
“God bless my wife, she just supported the heck out of me. When I first married her, she could care less about athletics. But when our son (Dustin) started playing, then all of a sudden athletics became important to her, too.”
Dustin, who was also a three-sport star at Bonneville, played baseball at Wichita State and then played professional baseball in the Houston Astros organization. When his playing days were done, he started a program called “WAR” — Workout Addiction Recovery.
“He got injured and had a little bout with prescription drug use when he was at Wichita State,” Hawkins said of his son, “and he’s pretty passionate about helping people with that now.”
As Layton’s athletic director, Hawkins got a chance to hire Robert Ferneau, who played baseball for him, and Jim Batchelor, who played football for him, to be the Lancers’ head baseball and football coaches, respectively.
“We’re best friends,” Hawkins said. “We work out together every day. We cry together, we laugh together. They both played for me; they’re Layton High kids, and they love Layton High School. It’s fun to see that.”
Those close, lasting relationships always help make anyone’s job much more rewarding.
But there are certainly some things he won’t miss, too.
“For the last 30 years, I’ve been painting that damn football field,” Hawkins said, “and now we’re getting artificial turf. It’s gonna be nice. It’s a lot of money, but it’s well worth it.”
And for the last 10 years, Hawkins has kept himself in trim, tip-top shape — he still weighs what he did as a freshman at Weber State, a lean 168 pounds — by participating in triathlons.
He enjoys open-water swimming at Pineview Reservoir and at a pond in Layton, and though he doesn’t do much distance-running any more, he likes to bicycle, fish, hike and snow ski.
“In the summer, I’m probably gonna be biking, swimming or fishing in Montana,” Hawkins said. “And in the winter, I’m gonna be at Snowbasin (where he’s had a season pass for 30 years).”
He’s not completely done coaching, however. He’s helping coach his 7-year-old grandson’s baseball team, but he cautions that “sometimes people expect too much out of kids that young.”
Hopefully, parents of those youngsters will take some sound advice from “Hawk” — someone who’s spent virtually his entire life playing, coaching and overseeing sports and definitely knows what he’s talking about.