ATHENS – When it came time to teach anything to his son, Ricardo Muckle made it a game: Learning the alphabet. How to spell. Potty training. Tying his shoes.
Then little DaQuan got older, and bigger – much bigger – and his father pushed him. Any activity he showed an interest in, anything “positive,” as his father put it, he signed him up. He didn’t want his son to be lazy.
“He’s the one who took me out for football, and he was there with me every step of the way,” DaQuan said. “He and my mom, each and every step of the day, to get me to where I am today.”
There’s always a story behind the name a parents give their child. But that’s not the best one about DaQuan. It’s about his last name.
This summer, the sophomore defensive tackle, previously known as DaQuan Hawkins, informed the Georgia communications department that he would like to go by DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle. That may be a mouthful for broadcasters, and a slight annoyance for writers to hype. It’s also perfectly appropriate.
DaQuan’s birth father passed away shortly after he was born. When he was 15 months old, his mother Demetria was leaving work one day – at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International airport – when she ran into Ricardo. Soon, the two were together and Rico (as he’s known to friends) was assuming the role as DaQuan’s father.
“Ricardo’s been there pretty much his whole life,” Demetria Muckle said. “He stepped up.”
As the years went on, the family expanded by two daughters: Rickiya just turned 15, and Rhyan is 8. DaQuan, meanwhile, became a football prospect, prodded on by his father, though not in an overbearing way. It was actually a sly way.
Ricardo had a cousin who coached a football team. One day he brought DaQuan by the park, the cousin came up, a conversation ensued, and a once-reluctant DaQuan decided to try it.
“He’s the person that introduced me to football. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here in this spot today,” DaQuan said of his father. “So I thank him each and every day for that because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here. He’s the one that motivated me to stop playing video games, and stop eating potato chips all day, and go out there and do something productive. He’s the one throwing the football with me in the yard every day, getting me conditioned.”
It helped that DaQuan grew to become 6-foot-4 and just over 300 pounds. Combine that with good athleticism and skill, and Hawkins – only a three-star recruit out of Westlake High School – started two games as a freshman last year, and has been getting first-team work this preseason. His mother says, with a smile, that DaQuan is “everything (Ricardo) talks about: His son playing football at Georgia.”
That’s only sort of true, Ricardo clarifies: He’s just as proud that DaQuan is going for a degree in pharmaceutical sciences, with the aim of being a pharmacist.
“My son is intelligent,” said Muckle, who is an electrical engineer, and said he comes from a family with a background in mechanical engineering. “My son is not one of those kids hanging around with his pants down who’s just one angle. He’s intellectual. He’s just as good in the books as on the football field.”
Then there’s the name.
Throughout his childhood, he went by DaQuan Hawkins. Even as Ricardo took over and adopted him, he and Demetria came to an agreement: DaQuan’s last name would be only his decision.
“I’ve never pushed myself or my ways on anyone,” Muckle said. “DaQuan has never been a stepson or anything like that. That’s my son. I never wanted him to feel like: ‘My Dad made my name be a certain thing.’ I wanted him to want it.”
He did. But the name change came without any flare, no big moment at which DaQuan sat his parents down to tell them. He just did it, and Ricardo Muckle is fine with that.
The story behind this name change, ultimately, is it didn’t change anything, because it didn’t need to.
“He’s my son,” Muckle said, “Whether his name is Mickey Mouse, or whether his name is DaQuan Hawkins or whether it’s DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle.”