CLEVELAND, Ohio — **Andrew Hawkins' path to professional football was a long and winding one. And the Browns veteran wide receiver -- who once worked at a wind turbine factory and as a caddy at a country club after starring with the Toledo Rockets -- has realized what a kind of impact he could have off the field as well as on.
"Being an NFL player has been a dream come true and before I got to this point I prayed and prayed and prayed on it," Hawkins said. "So to be able to accomplish this dream, there's a responsibility involved."
On Tuesday morning, Hawkins made good on that approach and spoke at the City of Cleveland's inaugural Cleveland Says 'No More' Breakfast as part of October's Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy awareness month.
"It's such an important part of society, giving back and these are situations that need our attention, they need awareness and there's people out there that need our protection," Hawkins said. "And I think it's our responsibility to do so to raise awareness. It's an important issue that influences every part of society, every walk of life but it's not right. Where the gap is we've got to do our best to help bridge it."
Hawkins spoke to a room filled with police officers — including keynote speaker and Cleveland chief of police Calvin Williams — and others on the front lines of combating domestic violence and its ramifications across Northeast Ohio.
"The people in that room are the ones on the ground. There's not much glory in it and what it's about is the people in need. And they devote their time and energy and everything they do is for others. They're so important to this," Hawkins said.
Hawkins, who's in his sixth season and second with the Browns, is aware of the sway he has as a professional athlete. But his speech was about those in the audience who encounter the realities of domestic violence on a daily basis.
"I can raise awareness because I have a name, because I'm part of the Cleveland Browns, but those are the ones on the ground floor," he said, "and what I spoke about was basically showing them how much they mean to us and thanking them for their service because it's so important."
Tuesday morning's event marks the second straight year the Browns have been involved with the city's efforts to raise awareness about domestic violence.
"It starts with Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who are incredible. They're showing that it's not just about football games, it's not just about tickets," Hawkins said. "It's about getting in the community and making a difference. I've been with the Browns three years and Dee and Jimmy have been incredible this entire time on topics like this and even more."
And Hawkins, who is in his sixth year in the league, will continue to use his platform for good.
"Most of the things I talk about, most of the things I'm involved with are trying to give back to the people who don't have a voice, try to be a voice for the voiceless," he said. "And if you're not doing that, for me, it's all for not."