2013 Offensive Player of the Year: Taylor HawthornePublished 11:47am Monday, January 6, 2014
Wading in uncertainty awakens different reactions. The mind-numbing sludge can incite growth or encourage descent.
Six games into the 2013 season, Edgewood senior quarterback Taylor Hawthorne found himself wading, sidelined after a knee injury he suffered against Autauga Academy. In the moment, the signal caller didn’t know the severity of the injury and the thought frightened him.
“It really hurt because it was my senior year and everything,” Hawthorne said. “Honestly, I thought when the injury happened that my season was going to be over.”
The senior may have been worried, but Wildcat head coach Bobby Carr remembered the shift in the quarterback and his teammates, together and separately.
“I think it did (change),” Carr said of Hawthorne’s leadership. “It changed when he got injured at Autauga (Academy). He got the kids together at halftime of that game and had encouraging words to say. My challenge to the kids, from that point on, was to think about number 7 out on the field. I always challenge them to play for something better than themselves.”
Before the knee injury, Hawthorne accounted for 1,651 total yards and 22 touchdowns and helped keep Edgewood’s win streak alive at 34. While the Wildcats chugged along without him on the field, he received “good news” that he would able to return before the playoffs, motivating him to get back to his team.
Witnessing his teammates continue the win streak over that five-game stretch, the wading changed Hawthorne.
“I think I needed to show them leadership more because I was out for those five games–not the starting quarterback–not being there for the most difficult games on the season. I felt I had to get their respect,” he said. “I think I had to show a little more leadership to show them I was back.”
Not being able to play, Carr said, awakened something inside Hawthorne.
“I saw that fire and that hunger in him after he got back,” the coach said. “You always hear, ‘you don’t know what you got until its gone. The guy misses five games and just look at the numbers, he throws for 25 touchdowns and accounts for over 2,500 yards.
“I’ve coaches a lot of great guys in my career, and he’s probably the best I’ve coached–the best that’s put on that Edgewood uniform.”
Hawthorne returned one week before the AISA playoffs began against Lyman Ward Military Academy where he passed for 211 yards and four scores. The Wildcats navigated through the first two rounds of the postseason relatively easy, beating South Choctaw Academy 45-6 and Wilcox Academy 35-20 in the Class AA semifinals.
In the third quarter of the state championship game at Troy University, Edgewood trailed Clarke Prepatory by 16 points. And how Hawthorne fought through his injury earlier in the season, the Wildcats fought.
“The whole year, the rest of the guys fought through adversity and never gave up,” Hawthorne said. “Coach Carr always says, ‘find a way to win.’ We found a way. And me with my issues, you can say I fought from adversity coming through the knee injury. At Edgewood, we’re not use to losing, I refuse to lose, and in the second half we fought and found a way to win.”
Stockpiling 263 total yards and four touchdowns, including the game-clinching interception return score, the senior seized the moment.
“Big time players make big time plays in big time games,” Carr said. “When the game’s on the line, I think about players more than the play. When the game’s on the line, I knew I could put him at wide out and have him go get (the ball) or put the ball in his pocket to throw and make a play. He makes it easier to call plays and makes it easier for me to coach.”
Trudging back from the uncertainty to lead his team to reach the goals it set at the beginning of year, Hawthorne hopes he’s earned his teammates’ respect.
“On the field, I hope they say I was a teammate that always pushed them to get better, that I was a motivational guy and that I showed good leadership. I hope they say that I was a good ballplayer and I gave my all when I was out on the field with them.”