Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lb Special: Mu Player Can Preach and Pound

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lb Special: Mu Player Can Preach and Pound

Article excerpt

Ask Matt Hawkes what last landed him in trouble, and he has to think about it. Hawkes, who normally maintains eye contact when he talks, has to raise his eyebrows and look down into his lap as he ponders what seems a difficult question. He fidgets a little in his chair.

"Um," he says, mostly to fill the silence as he continues to think. "I got a parking ticket last week."

That'll have to do. Hawkes may be a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker at the University of Missouri, but he seems more like a muscular Fred Rogers in shoulder pads. But on the field . . . "He's out to crush somebody's skull," says fellow juco transfer and linebacker Sam Josue. Hawkes, a highly recruited junior college player, will be vying for a starting spot in the fall. That process will continue Saturday when Mizzou wraps up its spring practice with the Black and Gold Game at 1:30 p.m. at Faurot Field. Back off the field, Hawkes is about as friendly as a resident of Sesame Street. He greets people he barely knows with a warm smile. His way of saying goodbye is a "so long," accompanied by an affectionate pat on the back. To Hawkes, one of 10 children in a close family, such praise would be the highest form of compliment. Hawkes and his father, Thomas, speak openly of how much they love each other ("I want to be like him," Matt says.) Hawkes considers his dad, who flew a Medivac chopper in Vietnam, his hero. If Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" character knew about Hawkes, she'd say "Isn't that special" - and mean it. Take the way Hawkes met his girlfriend. Hawkes used a prayer to prompt an introduction. "I saw this girl and I was like, `Man,' " Hawkes says. "I said, `Hey, Heavenly Father, why don't you hook me up with her?' " Now the couple is almost engaged. Hawkes' faith follows his family as the most important influence in his life. While at Ricks Junior College, a private Mormon school in Idaho, Hawkes embraced the school's code of conduct. He abstained from drinking, premarital sex and being out of his dorm room after 11 p.m. "I call it a privilege to not participate in those types of things," Hawkes says. Hawkes' faith took him all the way to Sweden, where he served his Mormon mission. …

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