Chris Hawthorne

Kicking off a career

For Gopher kicker Chris Hawthorne, academics and athletics are a chance to give back

Christopher Hawthorne grew up playing football in Raleigh, North Carolina, two hours from the beach and three hours from the mountains. He found his way to Minnesota when, during his first year of college football, he realized he wasn’t getting the challenge he wanted in the classroom.

Now Hawthorne is a Gopher kicker and a junior majoring in business and marketing education (BME) with two minors—management and sport management.

“Minnesota is truly a top-notch institution,” says Hawthorne. “You’ve got a blend of very different cultures and ideals here, where every day you go to school you’re going to get challenged, whether by a professor or by a fellow student who thinks your idea might need some critiquing.”

The BME program is supporting Hawthorne’s goal to become a college football coach, a career in which he hopes to return the opportunities that football has given him.

“Football truly takes kids in some hard circumstances and opens up world-class educations to them that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” he explains. “To [coach and] be able to offer somebody that, and to help mold kids into men, is the most life-changing thing about it.… BME helps you learn how to deal with people, how to manage, how to lead, all of which are traits I need to master to be a good coach.”

He enjoys that the program allows opportunities to try things. For anyone whose career ideas have ranged from dentist to CEO to marketing consultant, he says, the coursework is a valuable chance to find out what isn’t a fit, too. And the teachers set the University of Minnesota apart.

“It’s not really a professor-to-student relationship,” says Hawthorne. “It’s more like a friend relationship, where they are going to do all they can to help you succeed. Your relationship with them doesn’t stop once you earn a degree.”

On the football field, Hawthorne talks about his role as a kicker in relationship with the team.

“You only get two or three opportunities in a game,” he says. “It’s a team-aided effort to get the ball down in field-goal range. My mentality is to do my best for the group of guys that are my brothers up here. I want to go back to the sideline with a smile on my face, knowing that I just helped our team.”

Hawthorne’s busy schedule and teamwork don’t end with the football season. He enjoys watching fellow students compete in other Gopher sports.

“This past weekend I watched Wrestling compete, with 10,000 people present, and then turned around and watched Women’s Gymnastics knock off the number-one team in the country, with over 2,000 people present,” he says. “That heartfelt support for one another is what makes this place so special.”

Hawthorne is also an executive member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The committee’s work includes projects in which student athletes get involved in fundraising and volunteering. For example, its Gopher Global project sent a group to paint walls in an inner-city Chicago school last summer, where the impact moved the principal to tears. Another project allowed Hawthorne to visit Amplatz Children’s Hospital on the University’s west bank.

“Seeing some of the kids and families was life changing,” says Hawthorne. “They are truly remarkable kids dealing with some of the absolute worst illnesses in the world and some of the worst situations imaginable. My goal is to try and make as big of an impact there as we can, because kids are our future.”

Hawthorne sees all this as a way of giving back for what he himself has received. Many people, he says, helped him get where he is through athletics and academics.

“Every day I wake up at five a.m. and start thinking, ‘Man, I really wish I could get more sleep,’ but there are a lot of people out there that would do anything to be in the position I’m in,” says Hawthorne. “Once you get to the point where you can give back, you’re doing a disservice if you keep everything ‘in-house.’ You’ve got to give everything back as you can.”

Learn more about business and marketing education, a program in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development.

Story by Michael Moore | February 2013