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Hawkins makes a productive return

Before UND's season opener against Texas A&M-Kingsville, it had been a long time since Sioux cornerback Dominique Hawkins had played in a real game.

Before UND's season opener against Texas A&M-Kingsville, it had been a long time since Sioux cornerback Dominique Hawkins had played in a real game.

The redshirt freshman last saw the field during the first game of his senior year at Minnesota's Armstrong High School. After rushing for 171 yards and a touchdown, Hawkins suffered a season-ending foot injury.

"It's nice to be back," Hawkins said.

In UND's 40-14 win over the Javelinas, Hawkins announced his return in a big way.

The 6-foot speedster had kickoff returns of 39 and 50 yards, a 15-yard interception return and a team-high four tackles. All three returns set up touchdowns.

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"It was a very good start for the young man," UND co-defensive coordinator John Kelling said. "I was real proud of the way things went, both contributing on special teams and defense. He did an excellent job focusing on the details and for the most part played pretty well."

Hawkins started at cornerback in his first collegiate game with expected starter Delano Saporu out with an injury.

"(Hawkins') athleticism helps him out a great deal," Kelling said. "He's still learning the position. He's still learning the defense. There are things he can do much better on technique, but his overall athleticism is his strength."

The athleticism was clear in Hawkins' special teams plays.

"In high school, I played running back so I've had experience reading the field," Hawkins said. "It was nice returning the ball. I get that offensive feel again.

"It was an adrenaline rush starting for the first time. It was a night game, so I was thinking about it all day. What if something goes wrong? What if I mess up an assignment? After the first kickoff, I settled down."

The first time Kelling saw Hawkins, the coach could tell from film of his junior season that he had special skills.

"We were actually recruiting another kid from the same school," Kelling said, "and I said 'Wow, who is this kid?' "

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Kelling could see Hawkins' athleticism on film. Once he arrived at UND, Hawkins made his mark during testing.

An all-state track standout in high school, Hawkins is listed in the UND media guide with a 40-yard dash time of 4.48 seconds. Academically ineligible running back Ryan Chappell is listed at 4.47 seconds.

Hawkins also has a UND all-time record in the vertical jump at 39 inches.

"He's a very good athlete," Kelling said. "That's part of the reason he could make the switch (from running back to cornerback) quite easily."

The severity of Saporu's injury is unknown. He was scheduled for a doctor's appointment Friday.

"We're comfortable with Hawkins in there," Kelling said. "Some people get labeled as starters, but lots of guys are going to get playing time."

Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to tmiller@gfherald.com .

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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