Born in Bavaria and nurtured in Bayern Munich's academy, Jalen Hawkins is breaking through at Bundesliga 2 side Ingolstadt.
bundesliga.com has a closer look at the United States of America youth international who is picking up pace on the Ingolstadt wing...
Country: USA (U20 / 1 cap)
Hawkins was born in the Bavarian city of Regensburg and soon emerged as a talented youngster in the FC Ingolstadt academy. After a few years on the books, the 14-year-old Hawkins was spotted by Bavarian giants Bayern and invited to joint their academy.
He was part of their U16s in the 2016/17 season and made the next step up to the U17s the following season, scoring three goals in 25 games playing largely on the right wing.
The next step in Hawkins' career took him back to Ingolstadt, where he felt he would get more of a game in their U19s in the 2018/19 season, and he was right: in 18 games, he struck seven goals and provided three assists, playing his way into contention for a place in the first team.
He signed a two-year pro contract in June 2020, just days after making his debut in Germany's third division as a substitute against Eintracht Braunschweig. It was a successful first season with the professionals too with Hawkins making six substitute appearances and helping them earn promotion to Bundesliga 2.
That was enough for the USA to call him up – Hawkins has dual citizenship due to his parents – for their U20s, although the Covid-19 pandemic limited his opportunities with international youth football and travel effectively on hold for the best part of 18 months, although his performances in Bundesliga 2 are not going unnoticed with further work trips across the Atlantic expected.
Plays a bit like: Alphonso Davies
A quick winger who is equally comfortable on both sides of the field, Hawkins' pace is his main strength, but he combines that with excellent close control and good footwork. Like another North American who blossomed in Bavaria, Bayern's Alphonso Davies, he has a knack of getting forward with the ball at high speed and delivering deadly crosses for his teammates, resulting in numerous assists. With his ambidexterity, a cut inside à la Arjen Robben is also a trick he has up his sleeve, with several of his goals at youth level coming from such incursions.
Did you know?
Hawkins consulted a mental coach – Nunzio Esposito – when he was faced with the option of joining Bayern, and he accompanied him on his path to the record champions. Since Hawkins was 12, Esposito has been a key influence, helping him also come to terms with a serious knee injury. "I now play just like I did before and don't lose any time worrying about what could happen," Hawkins said of the support he received. "When you focus on what you do, it strengthens your mind, spirit and of course also your body."
What they are saying
"Jalen has proven himself as a leader in our youth team and earned a shot with the pros, and we hope he keeps proving himself and becomes an established pro-team member," – Florian Zehe, Ingolstadt's Technical Director.
"He's very focused and determined and he plays a good attacking game." – Alexander Käs, Ingolstadt reserve team coach.