Two years ago, Tanner Hawkinson arrived at Kansas University as a tight end hoping to earn some playing time.
Today, he’s a preseason All-Big 12 pick on the offensive line.
One day after the Big 12 released its preseason media poll — in which the Jayhawks were picked to finish fourth in the North — the conference Thursday unveiled the media’s picks for the All-Big 12 preseason squad.
Hawkinson, a 6-foot-6, 293-pound sophomore from McPherson, was one of six offensive lineman named to the team. He also was the only Jayhawk.
Hawkinson’s emergence on the offensive line has followed a wild path. Originally pegged as a three-star tight end out of high school, the 2009 honorable mention All-Big 12 pick spent his red-shirt season on the defensive line before finding a home at left tackle.
In addition to the All-Big 12 honor, Hawkinson landed on several other postseason teams in 2009, including first-team honors for the freshman All-America team by the Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News and CollegeFootballNews.com. He also was tapped second-team freshman All-America by college football analyst Phil Steele and was voted KU’s most improved offensive player of the year by the coaching staff.
Hawkinson started all 12 games at left tackle last season. His play earned him praise throughout the league. His potential opened eyes beyond college football.
“I think Tanner Hawkinson is a terrific football player,” KU offensive-line coach J.B. Grimes said. “I think he’s got an NFL body and all that, he’s just a guy that has to get in that weight room and get himself stronger.”
Hawkinson is one of four returning starters on KU’s offensive line, a unit that many believe is one of the team’s most talented positions.
“Those guys have been steady,” KU coach Turner Gill said this spring. “The five or six guys who have played the most, those are the guys who have been playing the best right now.”
Other highlights from the All-Big 12 preseason team were: Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson being picked as the offensive player of the year; Nebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick and Texas A&M defensive lineman/linebacker Von Miller being named co-defensive players of the year; and Colorado wide receiver Toney Clemons being picked as the conference’s newcomer of the year.
The Jayhawks report for preseason camp Aug. 3. Practices begin Aug. 4. KU will open the season Sept. 4 against North Dakota State at KU.
The full team is below.
2010 Media Preseason All-Big 12 Football Team
Offensive Player of the Year: Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M
Defensive Co-Players of the Year: Jared Crick, Nebraska and Von Miller, Texas A&M
Newcomer of the Year: Toney Clemons, Colorado
WR Ryan Broyles# Oklahoma
TE Mike McNeill Nebraska
OL Nate Solder* Colorado
OL Ryan Miller Colorado
C Tim Barnes Missouri
OL Tanner Hawkinson Kansas
OL Stephen Good Oklahoma
OL Kyle Hix Texas
WR Jeff Fuller Texas A&M
QB Jerrod Johnson# Texas A&M
RB Daniel Thomas* Kansas State
RB DeMarco Murray^# Oklahoma
PK Alex Henery^# Nebraska
KR Cyrus Gray Texas A&M
DL Aldon Smith Missouri
DL Jared Crick* Nebraska
DL Jeremy Beal# Oklahoma
DL Sam Acho Texas
LB Travis Lewis^* Oklahoma
LB Keenan Robinson Texas
LB Von Miller* Texas A&M
LB Brian Duncan Texas Tech
DB Prince Amukamara* Nebraska
DB Quinton Carter# Oklahoma
DB Aaron Williams Texas
DB Curtis Brown Texas
DB Blake Gideon Texas
P Derek Epperson* Baylor
PR Ryan Broyles^ Oklahoma
^ — 2009 Preseason Team
* — 2009 All-Big 12 First Team selection
# — 2009 All-Big 12 Second Team selection
Notes — Ties in voting created an additional spot at offensive line, defensive back and linebacker.
Unanimous selections: DL - Jared Crick (NU) and Jeremy Beal (OU); LB - Travis Lewis (OU)