Ex-UNC player talked to NCAA, but says he broke no rules

Staff writerSeptember 10, 2010 

Former North Carolina cornerback Chris Hawkins said Friday that he talked to NCAA investigators about his relationship with current Tar Heels football players but said he hasn’t broken any rules with regard to UNC.

Hawkins, who played the last of his three seasons with the Tar Heels in 2003, said he was helping North Carolina players “with the vetting process” of agents. He said he is not an agent, however, adding that he has not taken money from an agent.

But Hawkins confirmed that he bought a jersey from Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, a purchase that led to a four-game suspension for Green. According to a University of Georgia news release, the $1,000 purchase was made by someone who meets the definition of an agent.

“I think it should get appealed, especially if they do a little more research and find out I’m not an agent and haven’t worked for one,” Hawkins said in a telephone interview.

Hawkins didn’t say which players he was vetting for agents but said he has known cornerback Kendric Burney “a long time” and has a bond with him.

Archived records of Burney’s Twitter account show posts by him describing trips to Atlanta and Las Vegas with Hawkins. Burney’s posts indicate that Tar Heels cornerback Charles Brown also went on the Atlanta trip. Hawkins said Friday that Burney and Brown – who were among seven UNC players declared ineligible for the Sept. 4 season opener against LSU in Atlanta. – paid their own way on the trips.

Six other players were held out of the game. Hawkins said he met in person with NCAA investigators who asked how he knew the UNC players and if he was trying to steer them to agents.

He said he and the North Carolina players were honest with investigators and didn’t do anything wrong.

“Nobody’s lied about anything,” Hawkins said. “I don’t understand why people are being held out. Nobody ever lied or took anything from me.”

The NCAA first informed UNC officials in June of its investigation into possible improprieties related to sports agents. NCAA rules allow players to speak with agents but prohibit them from accepting anything of value from them.

If players sign or make an agreement with an agent, their NCAA eligibility is forfeited.

Peter Schaffer, an agent who represents former Tar Heels wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (now with the New York Giants), confirmed that a current player at North Carolina asked him to talk to Hawkins, who was helping the player screen agents.

Schaffer said it’s not unusual for players to have someone help them decide which agent to choose. He said players might ask him to talk to their uncle or their pastor, for example, and said he honors those requests.

Hawkins never asked for anything of value, Schaffer said. Schaffer said he is speaking publicly because he wants people to understand that players have the right to speak to agents and carefully screen them in order to make the best possible decision.

“The selection of an agent by a student-athlete could be, other than getting married, one of the most important decisions they make in their entire lives,” Schaffer said. “And in order to make the best decision for the student athlete, that’s a personal decision based on the student athlete and his family and whoever he’s using to advise him.”

Hawkins is a former Kinston High standout who played three seasons for North Carolina before being dismissed from the team for unspecified violations of team rules in April of 2004. He transferred to Marshall for his senior season.

He said that he has helped manage the business affairs of his former UNC teammate, Willie Parker, who won two Super Bowls as a Pittsburgh Steelers running back. According to the court record for a February traffic ticket in Davidson County, the address listed by Hawkins corresponds with a Durham house that tax records show is owned by Parker.

Hawkins said he has gotten to know Tar Heel players when he has returned to campus along with Parker to work out with players in the offseason. He said the large amount of NFL-caliber talent on North Carolina’s roster has made the school a hotbed of agent activity.

On May 21, Burney mentioned traveling to Atlanta with Hawkins and Brown on his Twitter account. Later, Burney tweeted about meeting a second teammate, running back Shaun Draughn, in Atlanta. Draughn was withheld from the LSU game as school officials sought more information from the NCAA.

Burney tweeted about being at a pool party in Las Vegas on May 30 and said in a message at 1:25 a.m. on May 31 that he was in Las Vegas with Hawkins. Hawkins said it’s not a big deal for college students to take trips, especially when the players paid their own way.

“That’s what you do in college,” Hawkins said. “... I don’t know what the big issue is.”

He said he has helped the players evaluate those agents but said they will make their choices on their own.

“If they need some help, it’s me just helping them,” Hawkins said. “People are blowing it way out of proportion.”

Staff researcher Brooke Cain and staff writer J.P. Giglio contributed to this report.

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-8942

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