The Buckeye Battle Cry will be counting down the Top 25 players of the past decade all spring/summer. Every Monday and Thursday, Jim will be announcing a new player. Our #1 player will be presented on Monday, August 30th. Three days later, the 2010 season officially begins. To view the previous entries in our Top 25, click here.
A.J. Hawk was Ohio State football personified.
Hard working, hard hitting, tenacious, old school through and through but with surprising amounts of athleticism, Hawk was a joy to watch during his time in Columbus.
Every Saturday in the ‘Shoe and in stadiums around the Big Ten, you knew that A.J. Hawk was going to be all over the field and you knew that someone was going to feel the pain if they were unfortunate enough to have a close encounter with #47.
The thing that took Hawk from a great linebacker to one of the greatest was his consistency. I can’t recall Hawk ever being hurt, and I can’t recall him ever not showing up for a football game.
Whether it was against Texas or San Diego State, A.J. Hawk brought the same amount of intensity and tenacity to the field.
Hawk started his career as a key backup and special teams standout during the national championship run in 2002. He even logged significant minutes in the Fiesta Bowl when Cie Grant went down with a shoulder stinger (you may also remember him getting blatantly clipped on the punt return that set up Miami’s game tying field goal at the end of regulation).
As a sophomore in 2003 Hawk broke into the starting rotation and led the team in tackles with 106 .
In 2004 he led the team in tackles again with 141 and was a bright spot (first team All American honors) on an otherwise unremarkable team that went 8-4.
In 2005 he was the star of the best linebacking trio in the country along with Anthony Schlegel and Bobby Carpenter. He once again led the team in tackles with 121 and earned first team All American honors for the second year in a row.
All together, Hawk’s 394 career tackles are the 5th most at Ohio State (behind tackling machines Marek, Cousineau, and Spielman, who’s marks will never be touched unless offenses go back to the wing T).
Hawk is also 8th on the all-time list of career tackles for loss with 41. That many tackles for loss is a nice indication of a Hawk’s ability to completely disrupt opposing offenses.
In the 2006 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers selected Hawk 5th overall.
Hawk has been a solid defender for Green Bay, averaging nearly 100 tackles per season, but he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that come with the 5th overall pick.
Regardless of his NFL career (Green Bay looks to have one of the best defenses in the NFL for the upcoming season) A.J. Hawk is and will always be a Buckeye great.
For his old school style of play, for his tenacity, for his two first team All American seasons, for his place in the record books, and simply for being one of the best linebackers ever to play for Ohio State, A.J. Hawk is #2 on our countdown of the top 25 Buckeyes of the last decade.