22. A.J. Hawk (Ray’s pick)
In his final days as a member of the Green Bay Packers, A.J. Hawk was torched by most Packers fans and the media because of the mediocre season, at best, he turned in during his final year in Packers News.
He was slow, out of position and didn’t have any burst left in his legs.
Aaron Rodgers said Hawk was playing hurt that entire season; Hawk denied that assessment.
But whether it was true or not, Hawk’s days in Green Bay were over even before the season came to an end.
That’s sad because Hawk deserved a better goodbye than he received in Green Bay.
For nine years he battled on the inside for the Packers, playing through injury and helping lead the team to several NFC North Division titles, several playoff wins and a Super Bowl title in 2010.
He was the working man’s blue collar stud who never complained, did what he was asked and even took a huge pay cut two years ago to stay in Green Bay.
Through it all, he missed only two games his entire career.
Drafted with the number five pick overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, many felt he played below the expectations of that pick.
But he was always there; he was the leader week-in and week-out for Green Bay, making the defensive calls and adjustments on every play for the Packers.
Statistically, Hawk’s numbers aren’t eyepopping, but his stability and consistency made up for that.
To his credit, Hawk is the all-time franchise leader in tackles, registering 628 over the course of his nine years in Packers News. He also added 298 assists to his total, meaning he was in on just short of 1,000 tackles during his career in Green Bay. During his rookie season back in 2006, Hawk had 82 tackles to lead the team.
His lowest number of tackles came his last season when his playing time dropped precipitously. In 2014, he had 54 tackles and 40 assists. Through the years, he was consistently around the 70 tackles per-season mark.
Hawk also intercepted nine passes during his career, with his best total of three coming during the Super Bowl season of 2010. He also had 33 passes defensed during his career, four forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Hawk wasn’t used much as a pass rusher, but he did have 19 sacks to his credit these past nine years with his best total actually coming in 2013 when many were saying he was washed up.
A.J. Hawk was not only a leader on the field, but he was a leader in the community; a class guy who used his position and notoriety to help many, many people.
In my mind, Hawk is still one of my favorite players who have worn the Green and Gold. He epitomized Packers football, was humble and fun to watch.
Had he not trailed off statistically on the field his past couple of seasons in Green Bay and had Ted Thompson done a better job of keeping defensive linemen in front of him who could contain their gaps, Hawk may have retired with the Packers.
He was a player’s player, a coach’s dream and a solid member of the NFL fraternity.
Next: No. 22 (Freddie's pick)