Coach Phil Hawkins has quite the resume, and obviously knows how to make a great first impression. Coach Hawkins officially became the head football coach at Apollo High School in April of 2018. On the job just a little over two months, and in a span of just 10 days, he managed to secure three Division I college football scholarship offers for three Apollo players. Based on Hawkins’ track record at Doss High School in Louisville, that is just the beginning.
Phil Hawkins grew up in Frankfort, Kentucky and took an unconventional route to college football himself. After high school, he joined the Navy’s Sea College Program, which required two years of active duty service, in an effort to develop naval officers. While stationed in Seattle, Washington, Hawkins soon realized that “the biggest and best football opportunity was 15 minutes away.” After playing three seasons for the University of Washington, he returned home to Kentucky and began working in the thoroughbred industry. While working as a horse trainer and owner, he started building his football coaching resume.
Hawkins began coaching in 1995, but found himself with the sole responsibility of raising his son Chris in 1996. Even though it seemed like head coaching opportunities were available on a daily basis, Coach felt it best to wait until Chris graduated from high school before he took on a high school head coaching position. Until that time, Hawkins was the head middle school coach and assistant high school coach at Oldham County, where he became the first inductee into the Kentucky Middle School Football Hall of Fame.
After coming home from the All-American game in 2009, Hawkins decided that, if he was going to devote much of his time to student athletes, it only made sense to go back to school to become a teacher. He graduated with his teaching degree from Kentucky State University in 2012, just six months before Chris graduated from high school. Coach received the first high school head coaching job he interviewed for, but it wasn’t until he went to Doss High School in Louisville that he truly realized the impact that he could have on his players and their futures.
Throughout his coaching career thus far, Hawkins has coached four All-American players, as well as four All-State players while at Doss. Last year, his team had eight players with Division I offers, including six seniors and two juniors. Hawkins recalls that at one point last spring, “51 Division I schools came through the building,” including schools such as Stanford and Notre Dame. Next spring, Coach expects many of those colleges to visit his players at Apollo. Hawkins says, “It seems like I have generated opportunities fast, but it’s because of the relationships that have been built.” When asked why he chose Apollo High School, Coach says that he loved coaching at Doss, but as a coach, there still seemed to be “a piece missing.” Hawkins says, “I knew that if I did the same things at Apollo that I did at Doss, the community would provide the support. It’s not just about providing financial support. It’s just turning around and seeing people in the stands.” As far as his relationship with the student athletes is concerned, Coach says, “I love the kids at this school—the one thing they are is strong academically. I am armed with the information to send them all off to college.”
One individual who offers a unique perspective concerning the hiring process of Coach Hawkins, and the importance of the college recruitment process of athletes, is Coach Paul Bates. Coach Bates is not only the defensive coordinator and offensive line coach for Apollo, he also serves on the AHS site-based committee. Bates’ son, Parker, will be a sophomore player on the team this year, and has already received his first Division I offer from the University of Kentucky. Coach Bates says of Coach Hawkins, “He was by far my favorite of all the candidates. He’s the one I felt would fit the Eagle family the best.” Bates also noted that Coach Hawkins’ connections and knowledge of college recruitment, as well as what he had done with the 2018 class at Doss High School, “really stuck out to all of us” as coaches. Hawkins’ strength in college recruitment has already paid off for sophomore players Logan Weedman and Parker Bates, as well as senior Gage Hayden. All have received offers to Division I schools in the time Coach Hawkins has been at Apollo.
For those who are concerned about the futures of some of the other talented senior players at Apollo, Coach says, “A senior is a late recruit; you have to take a different path for them.” Coach is eager to help his players navigate that path, so he recently sat down and interviewed each up and coming senior. Hawkins says, “They’re the leaders, it’s important for me to get a feel for their expectations…and it allows me to give them some insight on where they are football-wise.” In the meetings, he asked them what their plans were after high school, if they had a preference where they went to school, if they could—would they play college football, and then discussed their GPA and ACT test scores. He also asked them to answer honestly concerning their feelings about him and if they would make any changes. This transparency is not only how Coach Hawkins deals with his seniors, it’s how he runs his team and his locker room. He firmly believes that when kids start signing with colleges, it begins to motivate them differently, on the field and in the classroom. “They are going to play like college football players, and practice like it. This translates into wins.” Coach admits, “I don’t know how to do it any different.”
Coach Hawkins says that he has worked to develop a positive relationship with Coach Brannon at DCHS. The two recently hosted a parent recruitment seminar at Kentucky Wesleyan College, in an effort to educate and inform parents about the college football recruiting process. Coach Hawkins feels that if you “empower the parents—then this process is fun for everybody.” Hawkins hopes to build relationships with the other coaches in Owensboro, as well. He says that he is completely fine with a kid coming out of another high school and getting a college offer because of what is happening at Apollo. He actually welcomes it. “If we don’t look out for all of these kids, we’re failing them in some way.” It is clear that Coach Hawkins is not only a positive addition to Apollo High School, but to the Owensboro community, too.