His media career began at the age of 14, when he was still a pupil at the Blue Coat School. After participating in a local radio talent spotting competition, he was taken on by Beacon Radio in Wolverhampton.
Rob also appeared and presented quite regularly on Dudley and District Hospital Broadcasting (DDHB) from the Guest, Burton Road, and Russell Hall hospitals in the Black Country area of Dudley to which I was Technical Operator. (Dave Cresswell TWitter @davecres)
He became one of the regular commentators on live broadcasts for BBC Radio 5, shortly after its launch, before moving on to BBC Radio Five Live with the rest of its sports team in 1994. After senior commentators Mike Ingham and Alan Green, Hawthorne and colleague Ron Jones formed the second "tier" of commentators. During his time on radio Hawthorne commentated on several Division One Play-off finals, the Scottish Cup Final, a number of FA Cup and League Cup semi-finals and two major international tournaments - Euro 92 and World Cup 94.
Hawthorne's move to television was completed as he became part of the Sky Sports commentary team covering Monday night games in the F.A. Premier League; his first live game was Leeds United v Liverpool in August 1995.
But after his first season covering Monday Night Football (having commented on the title showdown between Newcastle and Man United) Hawthorne worked alongside Alan Brazil and commentated on some memorable play off finals such as Charlton v Sunderland from 1998 and Manchester City v Gillingham from 1999. He was moved back to covering Monday Night Football and some Saturday games. He has commentated on League Cup Finals and FA Cup matches. He commentates on all of the Republic of Ireland's matches. In 2003, when Sky gained coverage of Champions League football live, Hawthorne added this tournament to the growing list of tournaments he has commentated on. In 2005, he commentated on the famous Liverpool v AC Milan Champions League Final, as Sky's lead commentator Martin Tyler was covering England. In 2019, Hawthorne commentated over the 2019 EFL Cup Final between Manchester City and Chelsea alongside Alan Smith. Usual commentator Martin Tyler had been commentating the Manchester United-Liverpool clash hours before.
- White, Jim. "Sky's perfect pitch ensured that we, the viewers, never had to walk alone". The Daily Telegraph (London), 27 May 2005. Retrieved on 23 May 2013.