Buena Vista University quarterback Chris Hawkins says winning games is more important to him than throwing for 250 or 300 yards per contest.
You'll hear Division I college and pro football signal callers say the same thing over and over, but you wonder how much they really mean it.
That's not true with Hawkins, who was recruited heavily by Division I and II colleges after his high school quarterbacking career was over at Platte County High School in the Kansas City suburb of Platte City.
During his three years as a prep quarterback, Hawkins led the team to two Missouri state championships and a 52-game winning streak. Once you get used the winning, it's much tougher to absorb the losses.
"I want to put up better statistics at BV this season than I had last year," Hawkins said, "but only if that makes our team better.
"Our goal is to win the Iowa Conference," he said. "It's a tough conference this season, and I think a real key will be winning the close games."
As a sophomore last season, Hawkins had some big shoes to fill. The previous two seasons, Denison's Eric Wiebers threw well enough to break a number of school records.
Having 52 prep wins behind him and the talent to back it up, Hawkins simply started where Wiebers left off.
"I came to BV because I knew I had a chance to play within a year or two," said Hawkins, a 6-foot-3 junior. "I liked the players who(m) I talked with and the coaching staff."
Last year, the Beavers finished fifth in Iowa Conference play at 4-4.
In the process, Hawkins emerged as one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league, throwing for 2,149 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He was third in the conference in overall passing, completing 150 of 288 attempts. His eight interceptions was second-lowest to Luther's Zach Sweers, who threw just 118 times.
Last spring, BVU lost eight starters on offense but just one on defense. Hawkins was sacked 28 times last year, partly because the Beavers rushed for just 115 yards per game in 2005.
First-year coach Jay Anderson and Hawkins both say BVU will be more effective running the ball this fall.
"We need to replace three positions in the offensive line, but we think we've found some guys who can fill in well there," Anderson said. "We've been working hard to be more balanced."
Added Hawkins: "We're confident we'll run the ball better this year than last."
As for the sacks, Anderson said in practice, his starting offensive line has been working against the No. 1 defense on improving that as well.
"We've worked 30 to 40 minutes per day on pass blocking, and our offensive line and running backs have also taken a lot of reps," he said.
Hawkins, meanwhile, says he is more comfortable this summer than last, when he had to master BV's entire offensive system while starting at the college varsity level for the first time.
"Chris' comfort level is higher in this camp than it was last August," Anderson.
"He's always had the physical parts of the game down. Last season, he started learning how to read defenses."
Hawkins said the mental part of the game, especially reading defenses and calling autobiles, was the biggest adjustment he's made from prep to college football.
"The more reps you get in games and practice, the better you become at it," he said.
"It takes a lot of time and effort but you have to be able to see what opposing defenses are doing and react to it."
Fortunately for both Anderson and Hawkins, a new coach didn't mean learning a completely new offense.
"We've changed a few things around, but the base offense is still the same as it was last year," Hawkins said.
"Coach is putting his own stamp on the offense, especially trying for more balance between the run and pass.
"Right now, we're just adding new things to the offense, plays that we might not have had last season," Hawkins.
The BV junior is looking forward to starting the season. The Beavers open up with a road game at Bethel College Sept. 2 in Arden Hills, Minn.
"I think the guys are tired of beating each other up every day in practice," Hawkins said.
"We're ready to beat up on other teams at this point. We're excited about the season and we'll be ready when it starts."