A.J. Hawk: The consummate linebacker hanging it up
A.J. Hawk, it appears, is finally hanging it up as a professional football player.
The linebacker’s career, with most of it spent in Green Bay, was not filled with flash. His blue collar approach fit well in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where the fans loved him for who he was and what he brought to the team, but also had that hate relationship because everyone thought he should have been better than he was.
Of all the players who wore number 50 in Green Bay – Bill Curry, Johnny Holland, and Rich Wingo among them – Hawk fit the mold of a Green Bay Packer.
None of the guys listed above were stars, and like Hawk – they were just solid players.
Of course, it was Hawk who has been the steadiest through the years.
As a popular, reliable linebacker, Hawk was always available during his time with the Packers – game in, game out, year-after-year. Though many were disappointed that he didn’t live up to the #5 overall pick in the NFL Draft, he’s a Super Bowl champion who played extremely well at times and followed it by disappearing in other games.
It was the disappointment and realization by the Packers’ top administrators that his time had come at the end of the 2014 season.
He was cut and later picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Measuring reliability and leadership is impossible, but those were the two most important intangibles Hawk brought to the field and the locker room.
2014 was a crucial season for Hawk. He took a pay cut to re-sign with the Packers and franchise fans hoped that he would have a breakout year in 2014.
Improvement at inside linebacker was crucial in 2014 if the Packers defense was going to take that next step forward. Hawk was to play a big part in that.
However, it never happened and Hawk found himself with the Bengals.
In nine years with the Packers, Hawk played in 142 games, recording 19 sacks and 9 interceptions that he returned 121 yards. He has also recorded 628 tackles and 298 assists.
You can also throw in the fact that Hawk missed just two games over the course of those nine years.
When the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV, it was Hawk who began the season on the bench, but ended up playing a huge role in the Packers run to the championship during that memorable season.
In Week 1 at Philadelphia, Hawk didn’t play a single down and many wondered whether his days in Green Bay were done.
But with injuries decimating the Packers linebacking corps that season, it was Hawk who stepped in and made the difference. It was probably his best moments in the league and with the Packers.
As A.J. Hawk leaves the game of professional football, fans across the league and especially in Green Bay can rest assured that the guy gave all he had and was the warrior that’s expected of linebackers in this league.
Thanks for the memories, A.J. We thank you for your sportsmanship, your integrity and your grit.