Additional Big 12 media days coverage
• Check out Tuesday's live blog from Dallas, which includes videos, photos and updates from the Jayhawks' appearance in Dallas.
Dallas Just after Kansas University offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson answered the phone, teammate Trevor Marrongelli asked him for a favor.
“Dayne’s over here,” Hawkinson recalls Marrongelli saying. “Come over here and talk to him. He wants to meet the O-line.”
It was mid-December, and Dayne Crist, a former five-star quarterback, was visiting KU to see if it would be the best option for his final year of eligibility.
Hawkinson quickly made his way over to Marrongelli’s apartment, and KU offensive guard Duane Zlatnik showed up as well.
The three senior offensive linemen knew this was their best chance to make their pitch.
“We told him, ‘We’re in the same boat here. This is our last year. It’s been a couple rough years here,’” Hawkinson said. “‘If you get here, maybe we could get some things going, start a good legacy here at KU.’”
So did the recruiting job work?
“I think so,” Hawkinson said, nodding at Crist, who was sitting a few feet to his left at Tuesday’s Big 12 media days. “Obviously, he came here, so I guess we think so.”
Crist admitted Tuesday that December’s get-together was an important part of his visit.
KU coach Charlie Weis even made reference to it during his time on the stage at Big 12 media days.
“I think that when he came here, it really wasn’t about me selling him on me. Our relationship is wonderful,” Weis said of Crist. “It was whether or not he thought that he could come in here and be competitive or not.
“So he spent the whole time with the offensive line. Shows you he’s a very intelligent young man because he wanted to know whether or not he thought that the offensive line would give him an opportunity.”
Crist said the informal gathering — the four men sat on couches and spoke for more than two hours — left a big impression.
“I feel very comfortable with those guys,” Crist said. “Those are guys that I think can help us win.”
If KU has one reason for optimism heading into 2012, it might just be the offensive line, which returns four players with starting experience: Hawkinson, Marrongelli, Zlatnik and Riley Spencer.
Gavin Howard, the slated starter at right guard, also played in 10 games a season ago.
“We’ve got some good talent up front,” Hawkinson said, “with some good experience as well.”
The most experienced, though, is Hawkinson, who begins his fifth year in the program with his third coach.
The McPherson native came to KU thinking he was going to spend his whole career as a tight end before getting moved to defensive end and then to offensive tackle during his red-shirt freshman season.
This will be Hawkinson’s fourth straight year starting on the line, though KU has averaged just 3.3 victories per year during that stint.
“It’s definitely been an up-and-down career, but I wouldn’t trade it in for anything else, just because I’ve learned a lot of experiences, met a lot of people,” Hawkinson said. “It’s definitely built me as a football player and also as a person.”
Hawkinson said there were many times in the past few seasons when he and some of his teammates could have given up.
“I feel like our team as a whole, from week to week, just kept on trucking,” Hawkinson said. “I think that built us a lot. That’s going to prepare us great for this year, just facing through all that adversity.”