By Scott Springer, Cincinnati.com
Through a tweet from Penn State coach James Franklin and an elaborate video scheduled for release at 10 a.m. Aug. 10, Moeller High School defensive lineman Aeneas Hawkins announced his commitment to play football for the Nittany Lions.
A few injured Crusaders on the sideline had their phones, so word spread on the practice field just beyond the Gerry Faust statue quickly.
The four-star recruit had narrowed his choices to Penn State and the University of Cincinnati in the last month. His father, Artrell Hawkins, played for the Bearcats in the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl and was a second-round draft pick of the Bengals. He later played for the New England Patriots. His mother, Carrie (Nelson) Hawkins ran track and cross country for the Bearcats.
However, Hawkins also has family in Pennsylvania where his father and uncle (former Bengal and Brown) Andrew Hawkins are from along with cousin and former Pittsburgh Steeler Carlton Haselrig.
"Penn State was number one for a long time," Hawkins said. "Then when the new staff at Cincinnati came, I decided to give them a good, hard look. Really, there was no shift where Penn State wasn't my number one."
A late visit in July where Hawkins met some future teammates, cemented his decision.
Rather than the standard press conference featuring multiple hats, Hawkins showed some other skills in announcing his decision. One day in late July after practice he teamed with comedian Gary Owen and uncle Andrew Hawkins to make a video. Among the cameos in the video are his father, current teammate and Kentucky commit Brendan Bates and Bengal Wallace Gilberry, a former Alabama player.
The video ends (spoiler alert) with Hawkins being tossed a Penn State hat that he puts on before getting into a car. The effort took most of a day to shoot.
"It was elaborate, but I tried to keep it unique," Hawkins said. "
Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 265 pounds, Hawkins totaled 42 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble last season for the Crusaders. This season he hopes to be more focused with his college decision out of the way. Truthfully though, some coaches will likely continue to call him, as verbal commitments are not binding.
It appears that it will be tough to sway Hawkins from his Pennsylvania family connections.
"I have a whole different side of the family there," he said. "It (Penn State) is not too far from Cincinnati, it's a five or six-hour drive. We'll play Ohio State here every now and then."
Though raised by Bearcats, he has the support of his parents.
"I was talking to my dad who played for Bill Belichick," Hawkins said. "He said, 'You make a decision, you move on from that decision and you keep moving forward,' I wanted to get it done before the season started because it's not about me, it's about my teammates and my coaches working hard for a state championship."