Brad Hawkins never planned on becoming a multisport star at Camden High School.

He never planned on playing football, period.

"I was all basketball," Hawkins said. "I knew so much about the tradition of Camden High basketball. I always wanted to be a part of that.

"I didn't even think I would play football."

Hawkins played football. He played basketball. He ran track.

He is the Inquirer's senior boys' athlete of the year because he excelled in all three, moving from sport to sport during the course of the school year as easily as he shed would-be tacklers on the football field or skirted around defenders on the basketball court.

He might have begun his high school career with his focus on basketball. But he will graduate on Thursday as one of the top all-around athletes in Camden history, no small feat for a school with the Panthers' tradition.

"I'm glad I did both," Hawkins said of playing football and basketball at Camden. "I knew the history of Camden High basketball and it was special to me to be part of that.

"I feel like we started a new history with Camden High football and it was special to me to be part of that."

When Hawkins was in eighth grade, Camden's football team went 1-9.

"I never even went to see them play," Hawkins said.

In November of his freshman season, Camden football began its dramatic turnaround under then-first-year coach Dwayne Savage.

In Hawkins' final 36 games, Camden went 31-5. The Panthers went 10-1, 9-1, and 9-3 in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

"It was exciting that people started to look at Camden High football in a different way, that we would get big crowds to our games, play a lot of big games," Hawkins said.

A wide receiver and defensive back, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Hawkins finished his career in the top 10 in South Jersey history in career receptions (153, fifth), yards (2,306, seventh), and touchdown catches (36, tied for third with Palmyra's Kelvin Harmon).

Aa a senior, Hawkins was a first-team all-South Jersey selection after scoring 13 touchdowns and leading Camden to the South Jersey Group 2 title game.

"There are so many things I could say about Brad," Savage said. "His will to win is unbelievable. He took three different teams [including track] to championship games and was the MVP of all three teams. In a word, he is a beast."

Hawkins was part of a Camden team that won a state title in track and field in the spring of 2014.

"That was special," Hawkins said. "It wasn't football or basketball, but it was a great. I got my ring."

In basketball, Hawkins teamed with classmate Jamal Holloway to help Camden to four straight South Jersey titles. Hawkins finished his career with 1,440 points.

Aa a senior, Hawkins was a second-team all-South Jersey selection. He averaged 9.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists for a team that went 26-6 and reached the Group 2 state title game.

"It was evident from my first meeting with Brad that he was a young man who led by example," said John Valore, who was Camden's basketball coach in Hawkins' sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. "He is a true leader who on and off the court displayed confidence, determination, and commitment to whatever challenge he faced."

Hawkins has signed to attend the University of Michigan on a football scholarship. He plans to depart Friday for Ann Arbor to begin summer workouts.

Hawkins, who also is a strong student, stood outside the fence at Camden's football field at Farnham Park the other day and marveled at the speed with which his high school career had passed.

"It feels like yesterday I was a freshman," Hawkins said. "Now I'm leaving for college."

Hawkins said he never planned on playing a different sport every season in his four years at Camden. But he's glad it worked out that way.

"I can't remember the last time I went home right after school," Hawkins said. "I always had something to do. That's what made things go by so fast and what made it so much fun."

@PhilAnastasia

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