Hue Jackson wasn't technically the coach above Andrew Hawkins in 2012, but he couldn't help himself at one particular practice.
And for that, Hawkins is forever grateful.
Hawkins, now with the Browns, recalled the instructions Jackson, now the head coach of the Browns, provided to him at a 2012 practice. Jackson, at the time, was one year removed from his one-year stint as the head coach with the Oakland Raiders. He was back in the game in his first-ever stint as a defensive coach, working with defensive backs and special teams in Cincinnati, but found time for a player like Hawkins, then a second-year wide receiver looking to stick in the league.
"He would pull me to the side and say, 'Andrew, if you spend less time at the line of scrimmage and use your speed to get down the field, it will help you get open quicker because it will scare DBs and they'll have to back off you,'" Hawkins said. "It's something that helped transition my game and helped my maturation process in the NFL."
Hawkins went from 23 catches for 263 yards in 2011 to 51 for 533 and four touchdowns in 2012, a breakout season of sorts for the slot wide receiver who scratched and clawed his way to the NFL. He's expecting the same kind of impact from Jackson in the position of power he finds himself today, able to affect every one of the players who will comprise Cleveland's roster when the 2016 season kicks off in September.
"I know what kind of football mind Hue is. I know what kind of person he is. He's an incredible guy," Hawkins said. "He's a guy who takes pride in developing young players and helping them see the game more clear and making it easier for them. Being here in Cleveland, I know that's exactly what the doctor ordered."
Players from all walks of Jackson's career heaped praise upon the Browns' new head coach throughout the day Wednesday. From Chad Johnson to Carson Palmer, Jackson was lauded for his personable nature and football intelligence.
Asked why those players were so consistent in their assessment of him, Jackson said it stems from his ability to be simultaneously fair and tough. Hawkins said Jackson continued to approach the game with a head coach mindset during his time in Cincinnati, and it's why Jackson's transition back to the role in Cleveland promises to be a smooth one.
"I think what you're going to see from Hue is people are going to feed off his energy and feed off his confidence. He's confident because he prepares so much and that's what you want in the NFL," Hawkins said. "You don't want confidence for the sake of confidence. You want confidence because it's rooted in your preparation. I think that trickles down to the players. It's going to be what makes Hue successful."
For a number of Browns, Jackson will be the second, third, fourth or sixth head coach they've played for during their NFL career. The feeling-out period during offseason workouts and OTAs are an important period for both the coach and players, but it's one Hawkins expects Jackson to handle the only way he knows how.
"He's going to be confident, he's going to be stern, he's going to get to his point because that's how he is," Hawkins said. "Everybody I feel like is going to see that and fall in line with it."