It’s a moment that will forever be etched in the memory of McPherson’s Tanner Hawkinson.

It’s a moment that will forever be etched in the memory of McPherson’s Tanner Hawkinson.

The McPherson High graduate had a faint idea he was going to be chosen in the 2013 NFL Draft held April 25-27, but was expecting the seventh and final round. Maybe the sixth, if he was lucky. So, he was a little stunned to hear his named called in the fifth round on that Saturday.

“It was pretty wild,” Hawkinson said. “The whole process seems to take forever, but, when you hear your name called, it’s a pretty surreal moment.”

Hawkinson, a four-year starter for the University of Kansas at offensive tackle, was chosen by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 23rd pick of the round and 156th overall. It was the culmination of years of hard work that started in a log home eight miles north of McPherson.

Hawkinson began swimming at the age of five and played numerous sports as soon as he was old enough, along with his brothers Tucker Hawkinson and Thomas Marcellino.

“Tommy and Tucker played a big part of his early football days,” Kathy Hawkinson, their mother, said.

“Both encouraged him and Tucker was the quarterback at McPherson High, so he threw to Tanner, who was a tight end. There were many fun games to watch.”

It is a sentiment shared by the whole family.

“We called them T and T,” Joanne Johnson, the Hawkinson’s grandmother, said. “Tucker to Tanner. They were on every team there was, and had a lot of fun.”

Though Tanner played both basketball and football for the Bullpups and dreamed of playing professionally in either sport, he became realistic about his future in high school, focusing more on football, Hawkinson said.

His junior year at MHS saw him paired with new coach Tom Young, whom Hawkinson credits with sparking an interest in football in McPherson.

“Obviously, McPherson has always been a basketball town,” he said. “But when we finally got coach Young hired, the town started to come to life. My senior year was even better.”

Young, for whom Hawkinson stands as his first student-athlete selected in the draft, remembers the talent Hawkinson showed on the field, particularly his speed and quickness.

“For his size, it was outstanding,” Young said. “You could see that on the basketball court as well as football.”

More than his ability, Young was impressed with his character.

“A very good student,” he said. “A very good citizen at school. A great example for other student-athletes.”

Hawkinson ended his playing days at MHS as a decorated player, picking up AVCTL MVP honors his senior year. The next step was the University of Kansas, where he shifted from tight end to defensive end his redshirt season. In 2009, he was shifted to his final stop at offensive tackle.

“KU was a dream come true, itself,” Hawkinson said. “I’ve always been a fan of the Jayhawks, but going to school there, representing Kansas and McPherson, going out and playing with all my friends...some great memories.”

Hawkinson’s time at Kansas was something of a roller coaster, as the program was on the decline and he saw three different coaches during his time in the Crimson and Blue.

“It wasn’t easy,” Johnson said. “(Hawkinson) liked all of them. He still started every game, tried hard and encouraged everyone. You can count on him; he’s going to be there and do his best.”

Hawkinson did fight  hard for the Jayhawks, starting on the line 48 times; a school record for both number of games and consecutive games started. Hawkinson picked up first-time Freshman All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of American in 2009 and finished his senior year his past fall with an All-Big 12 second-team nod.

Even with the accolades, it wasn’t until this final year in Lawrence that the coaches convinced him there could be an opportunity in the NFL.

On April 26, he became the first Jayhawk drafted since 2010.

Hawkinson continues his journey from Bullpup to Jayhawk to Bengal Thursday, when he flies out to Cincinnati to begin his future as a professional football player.

“It still seems a little surreal when I sit and think about it,” Hawkinson said.

Contact Chris Swick by email at and follow him on Twitter, @SwickSentinel.