Last year, the younger Hawthorne was limited to special teams duty in the Seahawks’ 34-9 loss. Sunday, he’ll be in the middle of everything, as the Seahawks defense tries to cope with the six-legged running attack that is Marion Barber (344 rushing yards), Felix Jones (8.6-yard average) and Tashard Choice (5.1-yard average) and the multi-faceted passing game that is Tony Romo distributing the ball to tight end Jason Witten (33 receptions) and wide receivers Miles Austin (23.9-yard average, five touchdown catches), Patrick Crayton (17 receptions) and Roy Williams (19.2-yard average).
This is a great week, but also a difficult one, for David Hawthorne.
Both of them.
First, there’s David Chris Hawthorne, the second-year linebacker for the Seahawks who grew up a Cowboys fan in Corsicana – which is 55 miles south of downtown Dallas. This David Hawthorne will start at middle linebacker in Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Cowboys because Lofa Tatupu is out with a shoulder injury.
Then, there’s David Clark Hawthorne, the father of the Seahawks’ linebacker who also had to split his allegiance for at least one afternoon last year when the Seahawks played the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
“My dad is a diehard Cowboy fan,” the younger David Hawthorne said Monday after practice. “Last year, he had to wear one hat that had the Seahawks going forward and the Cowboys going backwards.
“He must have been on an emotional rollercoaster that game.”
After catching himself for just a moment, Hawthorne added, “He was probably more so sad to see us lose, with me being on the team. But he’s still a Cowboys fan through and through.”
It’s enough to make the lifelong Cowboys fan cheer, but the middle linebacker who will face the league’s No. 2-ranked offense cringe.
How did a kid from Cowboy Country end up playing middle linebacker for the Seahawks? The answer to that one starts with another question: How did a high school wide receiver end up playing middle linebacker in the first place?
Hawthorne’s face breaks into a large grin before he begins to break that one down. That’s because he was a 190-pound wide receiver before moving to middle linebacker as a senior at Corsicana High School.
Hawthorne made 142 tackles that season, but is quick to admit, “I wasn’t really a true linebacker. I was just a rover. A guy who just ran around and made plays.”
That led to Hawthorne being an ultimate ’tweener – safety size, but a middle linebacker at heart.
“I was recruited in other areas,” said Hawthorne, who now carries a solid 240 pounds on his 6-foot frame. “No many schools wanted to give me that linebacker spot.”
Hawthorne had narrowed his choices to Kansas State, Baylor and Texas Christian, until TCU coach Gary Patterson told the undersized Hawthorne that he would give him the opportunity to not only play linebacker but start.
Why not safety? “Just my style of play,” he said. “Safety? Too technical. You don’t get to hit people as hard or make as many plays. Being at linebacker, in that box, filling the rush lanes and being in the trenches, that kind of stuff (appealed) to me.”
So play linebacker he did, making 38 starts for the Horned Frogs and collecting 186 tackles – if not much attention from the NFL.
Hawthorne was not drafted last year, but the Seahawks signed him as a free agent. He made an almost immediate impact in training camp and the preseason games, prompting Tatupu to give him a nickname that has stuck because of the way he sticks – “Heater.”
“Lofa said I was out there heating people up, so he called me ‘Heathorne’ instead of Hawthorne. Then it just became ‘The Heater,’ ” Hawthorne said.
Now, it’s just “Heater.” But then play-inspired nicknames are nothing new for him. In high school, he was “The Hammer.” At TCU, it was “D.H.” – not for David Hawthorne, but “Designated Hitter.”
Now, he’s called upon when Tatupu can’t play. It happened in the Week 2 game against the 49ers, after Tatupu strained a hamstring. Hawthorne came on to collect five tackles. The next week, against the Chicago Bears, Hawthorne got the start and registered 16 tackles – which tied for the third-highest total in franchise history.
This week, he returns to an area of the country – Cowboy Country – to play before an expected contingent of 35-40 friends and family members who know him simply as David.
“It’s a big game regardless,” he said. “But it gives an opportunity for my family and everybody to actually see me play. Because being up here in Seattle, and playing the opponents we play, they very rarely get to catch a game. And often times, they don’t get to see it on TV, because they don’t broadcast our games down there.”
So this Sunday is special, on multiple levels.
“Everyone in Texas is a Cowboys fan growing up,” he said. “But everybody wants to come out and support me when I’m down there.”
And on one will be more conflicted than David Clark Hawthorne.