At only 16 years old, defender Stuart Hawkins turned his dreams into a reality after earning a Homegrown First Team contract on Sept.13.
“It means everything,” said Hawkins. “It's been a lot of work [to get here], so it’s really exciting.”
Since joining the Sounders Discovery Program three years ago, it’s been apparent Hawkins had the potential to reach great heights in his soccer career. While he still has a ways to go in terms of development, the agreement to sign Hawkins was necessary as he continues to gain momentum in his game.
“He still isn't at full maturity, obviously, but we expect a little bit more height and a little bit more muscle over the next couple of years,” said GM & Chief Soccer Officer Craig Waibel. “He's signing as a young man, but in a couple of years, with the work in our group, and our coaching and performance staff, he's going to be a beast.”
His consistent appearances with the U.S. Youth National Teams is also something the coaching staff considered when making the decision to sign the Fox Island native.
“There's high-exposure moments in our world when our guys get selected and included in national team stuff,” said Waibel. “So, the timing matters, and this was a good time to act.”
Though it is uncommon to sign a center back at the young age of 16, the standout performances Hawkins has displayed in Tacoma Defiance trainings and matches made the decision to bring him up to the First Team an easy one.
“At the end of the day, this is one of our top performing players week-in and week-out within our youth system and it's to the point now, where frankly, the way he's played in Defiance games this year, he might even be a little ahead of where we thought he was going to be,” said Waibel.
Hawkins will still serve as a vital role on Tacoma Defiance, but with the new opportunity with the First Team, the Sounders staff is expecting to accelerate the development process of the center back through introducing him to a higher-level atmosphere.
“We've been really good at developing good players, but can we speed that up,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “Can we raise the bar a little bit? So, I think exposing him a little earlier to that environment is going to help him.”
Hawkins’ signing with the First Team serves as a reminder of all of the hard work and dedication he’s put into himself to reach this point of his career.
And he has yet to reach his potential.
“This is just the beginning,” said Hawkins. “I have bigger goals, so I’m just going to keep climbing up the ranks, try to get minutes with the First Team and play an integral role hopefully in the future.”