Hawk was named this week as one of three finalists for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker. He is also one of seven semifinalists for the Lott Trophy, given annually to the nation's top defensive player.
As Hawk and the Buckeyes prepare to host Northwestern Saturday (noon, ABC), he said he is taking these accolades in stride.
He discussed, in particular, being in the running for the Butkus.
"This is a huge honor to be named to this," Hawk said. "You don't want to let it go to your head. I'm still going to be the same player and work the same way. It's a big honor to be up there with so many players who have won this great award.
"With how many people have been up for this award in the past, it's nice coming from a place where we've had guys like (Chris) Spielman and (Andy) Katzenmoyer that have done so much."
The Butkus Award will be announced Dec. 10 in ceremonies sponsored by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. The other finalists are Penn State's Paul Posluszny and Alabama's DeMeco Ryans.
Katzenmoyer won the Butkus at OSU as a sophomore in 1997. Spielman was a finalist in 1986, when it went to Oklahoma's Brian Bosworth. The Butkus Award will be presented to the winner by the award's namesake former University of Illinois and Chicago Bear NFL Hall of Fame member, Dick Butkus. The finalists, their coaches and families are invited to attend the Butkus Award Gala festivities including a welcome reception, golf tournament and silent auction.
Hawk is a 6-1, 238-pound senior who won both All-Big Ten and All-American honors a year ago. He leads the Buckeyes with 94 tackles (37 more than any other defender), including 11.5 tackles for losses. He has 6.5 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery for a defensive unit that is 8th in the country in points allowed (15 per game). The Buckeyes are 7-2 and 5-1 in the Big Ten headed into Saturday's game.
"A.J. Hawk is a consummate linebacker," OSU coach Jim Tressel said. "Tough and ferocious. But what makes him special is his humility. He has no ego and is a complete team player."
Spielman, who calls games each week for ESPN, also offered high praise of Hawk.
"It is my belief that A.J. Hawk is the best linebacker in college football and the best defensive player in the game," Spielman said. "Off the field he is a fine example of a student athlete. He understands and practices his role as leader and role model. I am encouraged and enthused when my own kids say they admire A.J. Hawk."
Spielman won the Lombardi Award as a senior in 1987.
Hawk recalls watching Katzenmoyer during his three-year run with the Buckeyes from 1996-98.
"He was always the guy," Hawk said. "I remember hearing about him when he was a senior in high school and how he could come in and impact the team. He had a huge freshman year and everyone knew about him then. He was all over the place. With me being a linebacker, it would be crazy for me to not study what he does."
The Lott Trophy, in its second year, is presented by The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation in Newport Beach, Calif. It will be announced on Dec. 11.
The other semifinalists are Notre Dame Linebacker Brandon Hoyte, Kentucky Cornerback Antoine Huffman, Maryland Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, Alabama Linebacker DeMeco Ryans, Virginia Defensive End Brennan Schmidt and Virginia Tech Defensive End Darryl Tapp.
The Lott Trophy honors the college football Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. The student-athlete is judged on both his on-field performance and his off-field performance. The Lott Trophy is the first sports award based on personal character and is appropriately named after the legendary defensive back, Ronnie Lott. Last year's winner was David Pollack, the All-American defensive end from Georgia.
Finalists will be announced Nov. 28.
Regarding the Butkus, Hawk said it is notable that two players from the Big Ten are in the final running.
"I think the Big Ten has always shown to have great defenses and has been a physical conference," he said. "They are getting away from that now with the spread offenses and the speed, but I think there are still a lot of great linebackers in the Big Ten.
"(Posluszny) had a big game against us. From the stuff I get to see of other teams on film, I see him making plays all the time. He deserves to be up there and so does the guy from Alabama. There are a lot of guys who could be up there – (Chad) Greenway from Iowa. I don't know how they narrowed it down. There are a lot of great players."
Hawk said his teammates are a huge part of his success.
"I'm lucky to be at a place like Ohio State," he said. "The guys around you make you who you are. If I was at a place playing with average players, I'd probably be an average linebacker. They take so much pressure off of you. I always say our D-linemen do a great job. They take up two or three gaps and let us run around and have fun.
Hawk made his comments during a rare Thursday media appearance inside the atrium of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. There, he was surrounded by mounted photos of all of OSU's special awards winners through the years.
If he wins the Butkus or Lott awards, Hawk was asked if he would care if OSU used a newer photo of him with his longer hair or one with the short haircut he had when he arrived on campus.
"I don't get to choose the picture," he said. "Whatever they put up … I guess that would be a great problem to have."