Bucknuts Mag Excerpts: A.J. Hawk

For this week's version of Bucknuts the Magazine excerpts, we close up the archives for the time being and move back to the current issue. The Summer 2005 issue -- the football preview edition -- will be available on newsstands across Ohio in the coming weeks, and the cover story in that issue is on senior linebacker A.J. Hawk. Today's excerpts are from that story and focus on why Hawk decided to return to OSU for his senior season.

As part of the redesign of the Bucknuts.com web site, we have added an area where we can publish excerpts from Bucknuts The Magazine. Each week, we will put in a new excerpt from the latest edition of Bucknuts The Magazine.

BTM has evolved from humble beginnings as a 32-page magazine into its current format as an 80-page magazine. It is published 10 times a year (monthly from September through April, then once in the Spring and Summer).

The magazine retails for $4.95 on newsstands. We also sell annual subscriptions to the magazine on the Internet for $39.95.

But the best deal going is our annual subscription bundle. For $99.95, you get a full year of BTM as well as access to all of the premium content and message boards on Bucknuts.com. Subscriptions to the web site, itself, are priced at $9.95 per month. So, for roughly $100 you receive the value of almost $160 between the web site and magazine.

In each issue of Bucknuts The Magazine, we have in-depth features on Ohio State football players, coaches and prospects. We also have analysis pieces on the Buckeyes as well as their opponents, the Big Ten and college football world in general. Plus, we have features on OSU athletes in a variety of sports, including men's and women's basketball, hockey, wrestling, baseball and other sports.

The Summer Issue, with A.J. Hawk on the cover, is available on newsstands now. Our next issue will be arriving in August. If you subscribe before July 15, your subscription will begin with that issue.

This week's excerpt from the most recent issue of Bucknuts, the summer football preview issue that will be available on newsstands throughout the coming weeks. This is an excerpt from the cover story on A.J. Hawk written by Steve Helwagen, in which Hawk discusses his decision to return to OSU for his senior year.

Headline: Driven To Stay, Driven To Succeed

By Steve Helwagen

Your college years are supposed to be the best time of your life. Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk must buy into that time-honored theory because he did not want his college years to end.

Hawk, who earned All-American honors for the Buckeyes as a junior in 2004, only gave passing consideration to leaving OSU a year early to enter the National Football League draft. It is a move Hawk could have easily made as some draft experts said he could have been a first-round pick in this year's draft.

But Hawk, Centerville, Ohio, native and a Buckeye through and through, took the road less traveled and decided to stick around for his senior year.

"The biggest reason I came back was probably the potential that this team has and how much fun I've had playing here," Hawk said. "I've started for two years and I don't feel like that's enough. I want to come back and get another year out of it.
"I used to watch that Buckeye Replay when I was a kid and you'd see all the old teams and how excited they would get when they'd make big plays. There's such a great tradition here, I just want to continue being a part of that."

Hawk is one big reason the Buckeyes are being considered as a preseason top-10 team and possible national championship contender. He is among 18 returning starters, including nine on the defense.

"It's unbelievable thinking about how many starters we have coming back and how many lettermen as well," Hawk said. "I think we have so much potential going into this year and I just want to be a part of it. It just seems real exciting to be here at a time like this with this with the players we have and the coaches we have. Why would I want to leave something so good?

"I enjoy my teammates and coaches so much. I just want to enjoy every minute of it."

Hawk worked as a backup to Cie Grant on OSU's 2002 national championship team. He then moved into the lineup and was an All-Big Ten pick as OSU's weakside linebacker in 2003. Last year, he took the next step and earned All-American honors. His tackle total of 141 ranks among the best single-season marks in school history.

As an All-American, Hawk put his name alongside the many All-Americans OSU has had at the linebacker spot. That lineage includes, but is not limited to, names such as Randy Gradishar, Tom Cousineau, Marcus Marek, Chris Spielman, Steve Tovar, Andy Katzenmoyer and Matt Wilhelm.

Hawk admitted it is nice to be considered in that company, but he is not dwelling on his place in history.

"That is something I will probably look at when I leave here," he said. "I'm in it now and still a part of it. You think about guys like Chris Spielman and Pepper Johnson, guys you grew up idolizing and you hear stories about them. I think we've had a lot of great linebackers here. It's nice to be considered in a group like that."

Some thought it was a crime that Hawk did not finish the year as a finalist for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation's top linebacker.

Awards don't drive him, but Hawk continues to show he is a relentless worker. He is among a contingent of OSU players who regularly convene at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for morning workouts.

"Oh, yeah, I think you can always get better," he said. "You are never a perfect football player. In every game, you make mistakes and there is always something to work on. That's the great thing about football."

Linebackers coach Luke Fickell has enjoyed working with Hawk as well as his fellow seniors in that group, Bobby Carpenter, Mike D'Andrea and Anthony Schlegel.

"He's just always in the right place," Fickell said. "When the guy has a chance to make a tackle, he makes a tackle."

Carpenter, who plays the strongside linebacker position for the Buckeyes, said Hawk's reliability is probably his trademark.

"He's Mr. Consistency," Carpenter said. "He may not necessarily be the flashiest guy, but he's where he needs to be on every play. He does what he's supposed to do. That's why he makes a lot of plays. If you're where you need to be on every situation, you'll be in the right place."

After finishing his OSU career as a defensive tackle, Fickell played briefly in the NFL. He talked about the transition Hawk may face in the next couple of years.

"The biggest thing for A.J. is just to learn the defense more," Fickell said. "When he goes to the next level, he's going to be asked to play different positions. He's comfortable in the position he plays and knows what he's supposed to do. I'm just trying to get him to get a feel for the whole defense. If we had to move him around, he could do it, and that would help him as well."

In terms of the NFL, Hawk was asked if he thought much about the fact he could have been a first-round pick this April.

"No, I haven't really, just because it seems so far out of the picture now because I've been looking forward to my senior year for so long," he said. "With 18 starters coming back and all this stuff going on, it's just fun to be around this atmosphere of Ohio State right now. I'm just trying to soak it all up."

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