Packers select Hawk with top pick

The Green Bay Packers selected Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk with the fifth overall pick of the NFL Draft today.

While the Packers were on the clock, general manager Ted Thompson was tempted to trade down from the fifth overall pick of the draft. He took some calls from other teams with some attractive offers, he said, but he wasn't about to budge and possibly be forced to pick a player other than the guy he really wanted - A.J. Hawk.

Thompson admitted today that he wanted to select Hawk for the past three weeks. The Packers' GM kept as quite as possible about it, "except for telling (head coach) Mike McCarthy," and said a few prayers before going to bed last night. Today, Thompson's prayers' were answered, and the Packers continued to reinforce their defense.

When it came time to pick, the Packers selected what many draft experts viewed as "the safest pick in the draft" and took the Ohio State linebacker. Hawk was the first linebacker selected among the top five picks in the draft since Washington took LaVar Arrington with the second overall pick in 2000. He'll join cornerback Charles Woodson, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and safety Marquand Manuel, all upper-level free agents signed by Green Bay this off-season.

"I believe in my heart that this is the right pick to take," Thompson told reporters about Hawk.

"We felt like it was a really good choice, a good fit for this team. He qualified in almost every criteria we were looking at. There were a number of players in this draft that we felt were worthy of being taken at the No. 5 spot. I felt like this was the best fit and I felt that way for some time now. I did a lot of praying last night, hoping it would turn out like this."

Hawk likely will step in and start at the weak-side linebacker spot for the Packers, according to Thompson. It is possible that he could play the strong side in place of Na'il Diggs, who was released in early March for salary cap reasons. The other two starters include middle linebacker Nick Barnett and veteran Robert Thomas.

Hawk, a three-time all-Big Ten selection, has played all three linebacker positions for the Buckeyes and has excelled. He is the first player to lead Ohio State in tackles for three consecutive seasons (2003-05) since Steve Tovar in 1990-92.

Hawk's resume at Ohio State compares to other great Buckeye linebackers, such as Tom Cousineau, Randy Gradishar and Chris Spielman. More than that, the modest Hawk has long had an appreciation for the history and tradition of the Packers.

"I've grown up watching the Packers for a long time," Hawk said. "I think it's a good fit. It's a football town, just like Columbus is here. I'm excited to get up there and get to work. I love the fans and how they care so much about the team."

There was little doubt among NFL personnel that Hawk would be selected among the top 10 picks. He brought scouts out of their seats in the RCA Dome in February when he was clocked at 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He also ran a 4.45 during his on-campus workout a few weeks later.

That type of speed fits well with Green Bay's run-to-the-ball type of defense that relies on linebackers making plays. He finished with 9.5 sacks in 2005. Aside from his quickness, Hawk is a hard-hitter and will add an attitude to the linebacker corp that Green Bay hasn't had in some time.

"He does everything," Thompson said. "He's played in a high-caliber place. Big-time football. He's played for a long time. He can play all three positions. He's big. He weighs 245 pounds, 6-foot-2, or something. Runs 4.45 (seconds in 40-yard dash). He was by far the best athlete at the linebacker position in this draft, plus he's one heckuva football player. There were a lot of things that we liked about him."

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