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Former SC standout athlete, NFL veteran Alex Hawkins dies at 80

Alex Hawkins, seen here in his Baltimore Colts uniform, died Tuesday at age 80. The former sports standout at South Charleston High School was the 1958 ACC Football Player of the Year at South Carolina.

Alex Hawkins, a standout athlete at South Charleston High School who became an ACC Player of the Year in football for South Carolina and then a special teams ace in the NFL, died Tuesday at age 80 in an assisted living facility in Columbia, South Carolina.

The colorful Hawkins, author of the autobiography “My Story (and I’m Sticking To It),” spent 10 seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts and Atlanta Falcons, winning two NFL titles with the Colts.

Born in Welch, Hawkins was named to the 1955 all-state basketball team with SC, joining players like future Marshall standout Leo Byrd, future West Virginia standout Willie Akers and future Duke standout Howard Hurt. Jerry West was an honorable mention on that team. Hawkins, however, cast his lot with football and shined at South Carolina. He was listed as a running back, but led the Gamecocks in passing in 1957 after leading the team in receiving in 1956. He led South Carolina in scoring from 1956-58.

As a senior in 1958, he earned third-team All-America honors and was named the ACC Player of the Year. That season, he finished with 474 rushing yards and three touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 141 yards on a Gamecocks team that went 7-3 and finished 15th in the final Associated Press poll. He was inducted into the university’s athletics Hall of Fame in 1970.

Hawkins was taken in the second round, 13th overall, by the Green Bay Packers in the 1959 NFL Draft. After being cut by the Packers, he went to the Colts and played there from 1959-66, when he was taken by the first-year Atlanta Falcons franchise. He returned to the Colts in 1967 and won his second NFL title with the team in his final year, 1968.

Outside of this on-field exploits, he was known for his free spirit. A Baltimore Sun series, “The Daffy Dozen,” chronicled the 12 most memorable characters in Baltimore sports lore. Hawkins was No. 5, and the story mentioned the night he tried to dodge bed check by climbing from his window on a ladder — only to have Colts coach Weeb Eubank waiting for him on the ground. Another time, he was caught hanging from a window on a rope made of bedsheets.

“I have learned that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that sports builds character,” he joked in the Sun story.

Named the first special teams captain in league history, he earned his nickname, “Captain Who,” by walking out to a coin toss for a game against the Chicago Bears. When team captains were being announced and the official said “Captain Hawkins,” Bears Hall of Famer Dick Butkus said, “Captain who?” In his 10-year NFL career, he rushed for 10 touchdowns and caught 12 more. The title of his autobiography was turned into a hit country song by Collin Raye.

According to The State newspaper in Columbia, Keith Funeral And Cremation Services of Hilton Head will handle Hawkins’ arrangements.