You never expect much out of a player drafted in the tenth round, but the Raiders found a true gem when they took running back Frank Hawkins with the 256th overall pick back in 1981.
Playing at the University of Nevada, "the Hawk" amassed 5,333 yards in his four years there. After his career ended with the Wolfpack, his jersey was retired and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
Oakland's 1981 draft was largely forgettable, aside from taking Hall of Famer Howie Long. Oakland even took another back, Auburn's Chester Willis, the round after Hawkins.
During his rookie year, Hawkins ran second fiddle to Kenny King. Even though he was splitting leftover carries with the rookie Willis, as well as Mark Van Eeghan, who led the team in rushing the year before. Hawkins ended up as the team's second leading rusher, though with only 145 yards on 40 carries, he hardly got the chance to get on the field.
Hawkins had it even tougher in 1982, as the team drafted another Hall of Famer, this time taking Marcus Allen. Hawkins was relegated to third string behind Allen and King, though still ahead of fellow 1981 rookie Chester Willis. He ended up with only 54 yards on 24 carries that year, but did score two touchdowns on the ground and one in the air.
Hawkins's best year as a pro came in 1983, as he rushed for 526 yards to Allen's 1,014, while Kenny King had only 294. Chester Willis had zero yards on five carries. Hawkins had six rushing touchdowns and 20 catches for 150 yards and two more scores.
It was the AFC Championship game, however, that Frank truly demonstrated his value to the Raiders. Frank scored two touchdowns in the second quarter to blow up what had been a 3-0 game. The Raiders routed the Seahawks that day, and then annihilated the Redskins in the Super Bowl to give Frank a Super Bowl ring.
Frank Hawkins was consistently used as a backup running back from the day he was drafted until his last game, and played his entire seven year career with the Raiders. Sometimes he would line up at fullback for Allen, sometimes he would just be in for goal line work, but he was always there working hard.
The 1987 season proved to be the end of the line for Frank Hawkins, however, as the team paired Marcus Allen with Bo Jackson, and Hawkins was barely able to see the field. He only played in two games that year, carrying four times for 24 yards, and catching a six-yard pass. He left the NFL after that season.
While his overall stats don't rank Hawkins among the Raiders elite, he played for seven seasons, teaming with some of the Raiders greats without complaint, just dedication.
Think about this: His seven seasons is more than Kenny King, Napoleon Kaufman, Tyrone Wheatley, Harvey Williams, Charlie Garner, Eric Dickerson, Roger Craig, Lamont Jordan, Amos Zeroe, Justin Fargas, or Bo Jackson—all of whom have led the Raiders in rushing at least once since Marcus Allen was drafted.
In fact, no Raider running back drafted since Hawkins in '81 stayed with the team for as long as Hawkins, except Marcus Allen (not counting fullbacks like Smith or Crockett of course, it's is a different position).
For the Raider faithful out there, let Frank Hawkins be a good memory of the past, where a quality player came to Oakland (or Los Angeles) and did his job to the best of his ability, regardless of his role, for as long as he could. He epitomized the commitment to excellence, and shouldn't be forgotten by the silver and black fans everywhere.