“Hank was on the scout team busting my butt more than the game,” Hall said. “I think we’ve been petitioning for him to get out there and get his opportunity.”
Hankerson is finally getting his chance. He's expected to make his second career start Sunday at Miami. The Redskins entered the season pleased with their depth at wide receiver, but Santana Moss and Niles Paul both are sidelined with injuries, Anthony Armstrong has struggled and the team released Donte Stallworth this week. Hankerson hopes to provide a spark for the Redskins’ moribund passing attack.
With Moss out of the lineup, the Redskins top two wide receivers are Jabar Gaffney and Terrence Austin. Gaffney has 31 catches and Austin 8. No other NFL team’s top two receivers have combined for fewer than 45 receptions this year. Eight teams, in fact, have at least two wide receivers who’ve posted more catches each than any Redskins receiver.
Washington’s top receiving target has been tight end Fred Davis, who leads the team with 40 catches. In recent weeks, quarterback John Beck has struggled to get any of his wide receivers involved, and Hankerson hopes that changes this weekend.
The likelihood of Hankerson in a starring role seemed a distant possibility not long ago. During the preseason, he dropped balls in both practices and games. He made the 53-man roster as a project, and even coaches weren't sure when he'd be ready to contribute.
Hankerson struggled with the transition from college to pro ball more than perhaps any player in the Redskins locker room. He’d always been the star. His high school team, St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., made three straight trips to the state title game. He was coached by eight-time Pro Bowler Cris Carter and received tutoring from Mark Duper, a three-time Pro Bowler.
Hankerson accepted a scholarship to the University of Miami, near his home, and was a regular starter by his junior year. His senior season was one of the best ever posted by a Hurricanes receiver. He hauled in 72 catches for a school-record 1,156 yards. His 13 touchdowns broke Michael Irvin’s school mark for most in a season. Hankerson left Miami as one of only three players in school history to post consecutive 800-yard receiving seasons, joining Irvin and Andre Johnson.
“Being No. 1 back in school, then coming here being No. 2, you’ve got to work hard each and every day to try to get No. 1,” Hankerson said. “That's what the difference was. Because I was No. 1, it probably slowed me down a little bit from busting my tail every day.”