Hawk says OSU has prepared him well for NFL

Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk is a prospect that the Green Bay Packers may consider selecting with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft in April. Hawk answered questions from the media this weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, including his thoughts on playing for the Packers next season:

Name: A.J. Hawk
Position: Linebacker
Height: 6-1
Weight: 248 pounds
Bench 225: 24 reps

Q: Did OSU lose its whole defense?
AJH:
They'll be fine without us. Coach Jim Heacock did a great job. A lot of young talent, just doesn't have much experience.

Q: Will you work out here at the Combine?
AJH:
Of course. I'm coming here to do everything. I'm going to compete and do every drill I can. If people have questions they can come watch Tuesday when I'm running.

Q: Do you prefer to play inside or outside in a 3-4 defense?
AJH:
I think most teams would want me at the inside in a 3-4, from what I've heard. I've done both of them at Ohio State, played the outside or inside position. Either one I'd feel comfortable with. I don't set in stone which one I would play, ‘Mike' or ‘Will.'

Q: Your thoughts on being projected to be picked by Green Bay?
AJH:
I haven't really given it too much thought. You hear so many different things. I try not to pay attention to too much of it. Based on what I do here, we'll have a lot better idea. I can play anywhere, any team that wants me I'll gladly go. Especially a team like Green Bay with the tradition they have, the fans they have, it would be unbelievable.

Q: What is the OSU LB tradition like?
AJH:
At Ohio State there's so much tradition, especially in the linebacker spot. It's an honor to play there. I had a great four years there, I had great coaches. The best thing about being there, the older guys would come back and let us know how they did things and how to handle yourself on and off the field. I have a lot of respect for them. I grew up hearing about them from my dad and other people. I couldn't ask for a better four years at Ohio State.

Q: Who came back?
AJH:
(Chris) Spielman is always around he has a radio show in Columbus, does some TV stuff. Randy Gradishar was an honorary captain for a game my junior year. Mike Vrabel is always back working out with us. Andy Katzenmoyer. The list goes on. There's a bunch of guys. Pepper Johnson is coaching in the league now. There's so many great players that have been at Ohio State who have helped me out.

Q: Do you talk with Spielman?
AJH:
I haven't talked to him in a while but he still cares about Ohio State a lot. In Columbus he's the guy, everyone loves him. We've watched film on him, saw what he could do, have a lot of respect for what he did. He comes back and tries to help any way he can.

Q: What has he said to you?
AJH:
He has a lot of good advice. He keeps you grounded and lets you know that regardless of what happens in Columbus, don't ever get too upset about what someone says to you or don't get too excited because it's so up and down. If you have a bad game and someone's cutting you down don't get down on yourself. If you have a great game don't listen to them. Don't let your head get big because of it. He's done a great job of that. Everyone knows what he's done, especially around Ohio, and what he's done in the NFL. I have the utmost respect for guys like that.

Q: Have you been anxious to get here?
AJH:
Of course I was anxious to get here. Once your bowl game is over this is what you work for, to come here. That's why I want to come here and compete. I don't want to delay it any longer and wait until my pro day to do everything. I'm ready to get back to doing some football-type things instead of working on mainly these drills. I'm excited. They gave us a little speech earlier saying ‘You've been working on the pro agility and the 40, but the weekend after the draft you're going to have to be able to play football. You're going to have to cover wideouts and do things. You can't lose yourself in all these drills. You have to still remember how to play football.

Q: In 15 years, do you hope people hold you in same regard as Spielman?
AJH:
I don't know, that's tough to say. No, probably not. He's done so much for the state. Out of high school he was the guy. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as him would be a great honor. We'll see 10 or 15 years down the road. That's what I'd like to come in and see what I can do in the NFL and try to make an impact.

Q: Do you have a chip on your shoulder about post-season awards, winning only the Lombardi?
AJH:
No. That stuff's over now. If I'd have won every award, it doesn't mean anything to these coaches, to these players in the league. It was never really an issue. I was trying to get ready for my bowl game.

Q: Big Ten guys say you deserved the Butkus Award. Do you agree? AJH: I don't know. Obviously my teammates will support me and they've done that. Sure, you enjoy the respect you get from your peers. At the same time, it's just an award, it's an individual award. It doesn't mean much.

Q: In the last couple years, a linebacker has been rookie of year. Do you feel there is a comeback for this position?
AJH:
I hope so. It's a position where a lot of times they say they don't want to draft people too high because they think ‘How much impact can a linebacker have?' Guys like Shawn Merriman and Lofa Tatupu had huge years. I think the linebacker position, with all the defenses they're playing and with the offenses you have to face, one week you're facing a spread offense and the next week a team is trying to pound the ball on you, you have to be able to do a little bit of everything. That's the tough thing about playing college football and it's even magnified more in the NFL.

Q: Why do you think people are pulling the linebacker position down in value? AJH: It's understandable. Obviously we're not big defensive ends who are going to get 15 to 18 sacks a year. We're not going to be a running back who's going to rush for 1,500 yards. It's a spot where there's three or four of them on the field, I guess you can justify not taking guys too high. All I want is a chance, regardless of where I'm taken.

Q: Donte Whitner said you hogged all the tackles. True?
AJH:
I was trying to get to the ball. I've told all these coaches here, ‘We had two of the most physical safeties in the country playing behind me.' I knew if I didn't make the tackle they were probably going to hit me on their way to make the tackle. So I had to get there first before them.

Q: What drove you the last four years? Were you not highly touted?
AJH:
It's part of anyone's personality. You come in and try not to listen to what was going on around me recruiting wise. There's so much stuff going on coming from high school to college with the Internet sites, I never got caught up in it, never really worried about it. I wanted to try to make an impact early. Get on special teams and play a little bit and learn from the older guys. That's what I did. I got lucky, came into a great situation and got to start for three years.

Q: How good is this linebacker class?
AJH:
I'm very impressed with how strong they are already. The only thing we've tested is bench. These guys are strong, they look good and I think they're going to run really well on Tuesday. I'm impressed. You watch ‘em play on TV, but you get to talk to them here and see how they are as a person. That's what I really enjoy.

Q: Your nose for the ball, what's the knack?
AJH:
I play with 10 other guys who are really good, I've done that for four years at Ohio State. That's one of the biggest things. Since high school I've had great coaches. They put me in position to make plays and I try not to disappoint them. I try to rely on instincts. I feel I can do that well at times. Try to go hard every play and try to go get in on every tackle.

Q: Who do you model your career after style-wise?
AJH:
I kind of admire Zach Thomas' play. I have a lot of respect for what he's done. I've watched a lot of film on him the last couple years. He makes so many plays that so many guys can't make. I'm really impressed with what he's done in the league so far. People talk about him being too small or whatever, I don't believe any of that. It doesn't matter how tall he is, it's what he does. He's making plays all over the field. I have a lot of respect for his game.

Q: How much do you think big games at OSU will help you in the NFL?
AJH:
Yeah, it helps just because Ohio State is such a big university. You get 105,000 every week to the games. People care about Ohio State nationally. We've been in pressure situations; we've played in a lot of tight games. Hopefully that will help me going into the NFL.


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