CHICAGO -- The back flip done by Courtney Hawkins during a Monday night interview in New York on MLB Network celebrated his 13th-overall selection by the White Sox in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
Hawkins probably wouldn't have been able to pull off that move, and certainly wouldn't have been judged as one of the top 13 amateur baseball players in the country if not for his older brother, Tim. When Hawkins was close to 14 years old, he checked in at 270 pounds.
But before Tim left to play football at Texas State, where he currently is listed as a wide receiver, he made a promise to his little brother.
"He promised he would work with me to get the weight off so I could play varsity football," Hawkins said during a conference call. "My brother was key on that whole thing."
As a freshman, Hawkins got down to 210 pounds and he dipped to 185 pounds as a sophomore. He was a varsity running back and safety by the end of his freshman year at Carroll High School in Corpus Christi, Texas, and a starter the next season.
Football represents part of Hawkins' past. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound 18-year-old hopes to be on the fast track to the Chicago's South Side, and work ethic certainly won't be a question with this top baseball prospect.
"I'm going to work even harder than what I had been," Hawkins said. "I just started the race and I'm trying to get to the finish line."
For the first time since 2001, the White Sox selected a high-school player with their top pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Kris Honel, a right-handed pitcher out of Providence Catholic High School in the southwest Chicago suburb of New Lenox, received that particular honor but never got higher than Double-A Birmingham after a fast start with the organization.
Tom Hartley was the last high-school outfielder taken by the White Sox in the first round back in 1984. He played three years but never got above Appleton in the Class A Midwest League.
Projections for Hawkins are greater than either of those past two high-school selections. The right-hander is batting .437 with 11 home runs, 39 RBIs, 56 runs scored, 17 stolen bases, a .580 on-base and .874 slugging percentage in 36 games with the Tigers this season.
Carroll High School remains alive in the Texas 5A State baseball tournament, with Hawkins focused on helping his team win a state title this weekend. The young man also can pitch, carrying a 5-2 record with a 0.96 ERA, 57 strikeouts over 36 1/3 innings and a velocity ranging from 92-96 mph when he pitched Carroll to a regional championship.
Life for Hawkins with the White Sox will be strictly in the outfield, where he is projected as a plus-power corner man, and has set lofty goals for current Major Leaguers he would like to emulate.
"Matt Kemp or Justin Upton," said Hawkins of his target players. "I like pitching, but hitting is my thing right now. I'm going to enjoy hitting. I'm a power guy who can run and can hit. I can do it all, and I'm excited to go play for the White Sox and develop into a better player."
"First and foremost, Courtney is a quality young man who we've followed for several years at various showcases, including our own Double Duty Classic," White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann said. "We've had a lot of people in to see him, and he has developed into the type of player we expected."
Laumann added that while the White Sox seemingly went away from their first-round tendency with a high-school player, "this kid has too much potential for us to pass up. We are enormously excited." The White Sox were a bit surprised Hawkins was around at 13, having heard him associated with teams picking from No. 6 down to the White Sox.
After not having a first-round pick in 2011 for the first time since 1978, the White Sox had two picks on Day 1 in 2012. They also selected Florida prep first baseman Keon Barnum from King High School at No. 48 in Comp Round A as compensation for free agent Mark Buehrle signing with the Marlins.
As Laumann told MLB.com last week, teams make their money and their primary focus is on that top pick, especially a top pick as high as 13. Chris Sale represents the organization's last selection at No. 13, but Hawkins certainly will take longer than the two months Sale needed to get to the Majors.
A commitment to the University of Texas also is on the table for Hawkins, whose No. 13 selection has a slot value of $2.475 million. Hawkins' first dream was to get a college scholarship to a top program such as the Longhorns, but if everything is right, he'll start his career early.
Appearing at U.S. Cellular Field will not be a new experience for Hawkins. He played for the West squad in the 2011 Double Duty Classic at U.S. Cellular Field and was named co-Most Valuable Player. Laumann said the makeup and character of Hawkins shined through during that event. And with that highly positive experience behind him, Hawkins hoped the White Sox would take him, especially after his name wasn't announced with the Mets at No. 12.
"I've already been to Chicago, I know the guys and I like them," Hawkins said. "When the clock hit zero and the Commissioner said my name, I was like, 'Wow.'"
That excitement manifested itself in a back flip while wearing a White Sox jersey prior to talking with MLB Network's Sam Ryan. White Sox general manager Ken Williams, who already has talked with Hawkins, hopes there are many moments of White Sox celebration ahead for the Texan, but that flip has been discontinued.
"Mr. Williams said no more back flips," said Hawkins with a laugh. "Keep my feet on the ground."
"Sitting in front of the TV with Kenny and [White Sox assistant general manager] Rick [Hahn] and [vice president, player development and special assignments] Buddy [Bell] and everybody else, I wasn't tickled to death," said Laumann of the flip. "I know Kenny, in a fun way, we were surprised. If anything, it showed the athleticism of a big strong man."