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Cleveland Browns receiver, and Johnstown native, Andrew Hawkins (left) tries to break a tackle attempt by the Tennessee Titans’ Blidi Wreh-Wilson during a Sept. 20 game in Cleveland.

Johnstown native Andrew Hawkins announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday afternoon, ending a six-year career that included stops with the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns as well as his recent signing with the New England Patriots.

The Bishop McCort High School graduate had signed a one-year free agent contract with the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots in May, but Hawkins, 31, cited health problems, including issues with his knees, as a reason to step aside. The versatile receiver announced his retirement during a video on Uninterrupted, an all-sports digital sports programming network with videos from athletes' perspectives.

He texted The Tribune-Democrat and said he drafted a letter thanking the city of Johnstown for its support throughout a career in which the 5-foot-7 receiver overcame one obstacle after another to play in the NFL. He also was part of two championships in the Canadian Football League.

"I just got off the phone with the New England Patriots and coach (Bill) Belichick and had to inform them of my decision to retire and hang up the cleats," Hawkins said in the video, which also was posted on his Twitter account. "After OTAs and through the summer training, my body didn't respond and wasn't feeling the way it should going into camp, for training camp, let alone with the defending world champions. Basically, it just started breaking down on me.

"It was either this or the alternative, which was not great or good for me and where I'm at in my career. I had to make a tough call. Obviously they were disappointed. I told them I was appreciative of the opportunity to come in there and work with an organization as storied as they are."

In six NFL seasons, Hawkins had 209 receptions for 2,419 yards and nine touchdowns. He was part of three playoff teams with the Cincinnati Bengals during his first three years in the league. Prior to that, Hawkins was part of two Grey Cup championship teams in Montreal in the CFL.

The struggling Browns are in a rebuilding mode. Hawkins and the team amicably parted ways in the offseason, as "Hawk" was looking for a chance to win – now. The five-time Super Bowl champion Patriots presented that opportunity, and Hawkins hoped to make a mark much like his older brother Artrell Hawkins Jr. did while playing defensive back for the Patriots in 2005 and 2006.

"It's bittersweet because I can remember being at middle school and people telling me then to hang them up," Hawkins said in the video he made with his son on his shoulder. "I never thought in a million years at (31) I could make a retirement video, still going, let alone with the best team in the world doing everything they can to give me the opportunity to be a part of something special.

"I thank God for where I'm at in my career and life. I thank my family for all the support. I thank my friends, my teammates, who are like brothers to me, my coaches, front office, owners, anybody who has helped give me opportunities to play this incredible game. I'm so appreciative."

In May, Hawkins earned his master's degree in sports management from Columbia University. He also earned a degree during his time at the University of Toledo and has built a solid foundation for life after football. His goal is to be a general manager.

"It's on to the next chapter, which I'm anxious about," Hawkins said in the Uninterrupted video post. "I'm a little nervous, although I've prepared. I've got some business opportunities, some opportunities in the game of football to continue in sports, maybe on the business side, as well as starting the process of starting my PhD in February in business and economics. I'm trying to hit the ground running."

Hawkins closed his announcement by recognizing all those who had a role in his career.

"To all the fans out there, most importantly, thank you for cheering for us, supporting us and rooting for us all of these years," he said. "You'll never understand the blessing you've been to me and my family."

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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