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The 2022 season has been a bit of a whirlwind for Tacoma Defiance center back Stuart Hawkins.

Hawkins was a vital contributor to the Sounders Academy U-17 side that won the Generation adidas Cup back in April, earning tournament MVP honors as the young Sounders defeated their age group counterparts at top Mexican clubs like Santos Laguna, CF Monterrey and Tigres UANL. At the international level, the 15-year-old center back has established himself as top defensive prospect with consistent call-ups to the United States U-17 Men’s National Team

Hawkins, who turns 16 in September, saw his success in the youth ranks translate to his first professional contract when he signed with the Defiance last week.

“[Tacoma Defiance Head Coach] Wade Webber says it the best: the day you become a pro is when you start acting like one,” said Sounders FC Vice President of Player Development Henry Brauner. “And Stuart has been acting like a pro for a few years already. That kind of led us to believe that the potential is there and that he’s going to have the mentality and character to keep him in the game.”

Potential is an extremely valuable currency in global soccer. But potential alone will only get a player their first contract. To carve out a long professional career, possessing a strong character and a singular focus on achieving one’s goals are paramount. 

According to Brauner, conversations with coaches at every level of the Sounders organization, as well as the USYNT staff, revealed that Hawkins has consistently demonstrated the mentality required for success at the next level.

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“These [discussions] lead us to believe that it’s not just a signing based on potential,” said Brauner. “It’s based on the idea that he will be in the professional game for a long time.”

Hailing from Fox Island, Wash., which is five miles south of Gig Harbor, Hawkins and his parents have made the commute to Seattle on an almost daily basis for over five years dating back to his days with PAC Northwest and Seattle United. 

After spending three years in the Sounders Discovery Program, Hawkins joined Sounders Academy on a full-time basis at the U-15 level. 

Hawkins might be relatively untested in the professional game – he has just one start for the Defiance so far – but his vast experiences while in the Academy should set him up for success. Prior to signing with Tacoma, he trained regularly with the MLS NEXT Pro side and even joined the First Team for preseason ahead of the 2022 MLS campaign.

“Stu has a good shot because he’s coachable, he wants to be here, and he wants to be part of this club,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. The interesting story is how parents make sacrifices for their kids. The parents are driving in from Gig Harbor every day to bring him to training. That shows commitment from the family, so I’m appreciative of the parents. He’s a good kid.”

The Tacoma Defiance return to action when they take on Portland Timbers (7:00 p.m. PT | MLSNEXTPro.com) at Hillsboro Stadium on July 10.