UNLV’s first NFL Draft Pick, Nate Hawkins, dies

Nate Hawkins Courtesy of UNLV

Nate Hawkins, the first UNLV player to ever be drafted by the NFL, has passed away, according to the athletic department.

The former UNLV and Pittsburgh Steelers football player passed away on Jan. 31 due to complications from COVID-19. He would have turned 71 this Monday.

“Hawk” as he was better known to his friends, originally played at UNLV his freshman year when the University was still named Nevada Southern (NSU). He was enshrined in the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class as both an individual and a member of the 1968 squad.

He never played on a losing team in Las Vegas, and eventually was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 2, 1972 in the 16th round of the NFL Draft, 403rd overall.

Hawkins remained a regular fixture at UNLV until his passing and even made one last trip to Sam Boyd Stadium in 2019, where he and all former Rebels in attendance took the field before the game to serve as honorary team captains. The Rebels won that 299th and final game at Sam Boyd over San Jose State.

“Hawk would return every season and always come out to practice and speak to the current players,” said former longtime UNLV receivers coach and fellow Houston native Cedric Cormier. “I always looked forward to listening to Rebel Football stories and receiving a text from him before the Fremont Cannon game each fall.”

He leaves behind his wife, Jeanette, and their son and daughter – as well as a legendary legacy at UNLV. A private

A limited group of family and friends will celebrate his memory on Saturday at a funeral home in Houston