Hawk is soaring

Linebacker has turned out to be a perfect fit with Packers

Ted Thompson decided before the 2006 NFL draft that A.J. Hawk was the player he wanted. There was much speculation regarding who the Packers might take with the fifth overall pick.

Early on, the school of thought was DE Mario Williams. After Williams signed a pre-draft contract with the Houston Texans, the rumors started floating that the Packers were looking to move up and get RB Reggie Bush. The Packers were also supposedly very interested in TE Vernon Davis. But the Packers ended up selecting the All-American LB out of Ohio State and couldn't be happier.

Others agreed. "Oh, Vince Lombardi would be proud," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel after the draft. "All of us who are middle aged like I am remember the glory years of the Packers. Wouldn't it be neat if he could help spark those again?" And what about the Packers General Manager again? "Quite frankly, I had my heart set on this guy," said Thompson.

Hawk and the Packers are a perfect fit. Hawk is a blue collar type of guy who appreciates the aura of the Packers. Hawk said, "I grew up in the Midwest and I knew about the tradition and the history, and I've learned a lot more since I've been here." And Hawk has been there from day one. No hold out. He and his wife, Laura, sister of Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn, bought a house in Green Bay two days after he signed his contract.

Hawk always wants to get better. There is a good chance that when one walks into the Green Bay training facility that Hawk will be the first one there and the last one to leave. Hawk is constantly pumping iron. The only day of the week Hawk doesn't work out is game day. Hawk even installed a hyperbaric chamber in his bedroom to increase his red blood cell count and his endurance. Thus far, the hard work has paid off as Hawk is a cinch to be on the NFL all -rookie team and may even get a Pro Bowl nod if his play continues at it's current pace.

Through 10 games, Hawk has amassed a team-high 98 tackles, 71 solo and 27 assisted. Hawk also has 3 1/2 sacks along with 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. The former Buckeye is on pace to have 157 tackles this year, which would be second only to Rich Wingo's rookie record of 166 set in 1979.

Hawk is a complete linebacker as well. He plays the run tenaciously. He is a powerful blitzer that is getting better every week. And his pass coverage skills are very solid as well, although he still is yet to get his first NFL interception. Just for good measure, Hawk plays special teams as well.

Obviously, the Packers are very happy with Hawk.

"A.J. Hawk is everything that (General Manager) Ted (Thompson) and I thought he would be," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "His performance on the field will continue to get better, but I couldn't be happier with A.J. He was definitely the right pick for our football team."

Brett Favre is the face of the Green Bay Packers right now, and deservedly so. Favre will go down as the greatest Packer ever, certainly on the offensive side of the football with apologies to the great Don Hutson. Defensively, names like Ray Nitschke and Reggie White are mentioned as the greatest ever. White might be the greatest DE in NFL history, but he played only 6 years in Green Bay. Six GREAT years. Nitschke was the greatest LB in Packer history for sure, but early in his career the Hall of Famer was often on the bench. That has not been the case for Hawk who has been a starter from day one.

If Favre is the face of the Packers now, than Aaron James Hawk may be the face of the Packers in the future. Like the race car driver he was nicknamed after, A.J. Foyt, Hawk has speeded up his development in the NFL and raced out of the gate quick. So far, the Green Bay Packers are very pleased. And if Hawk's work ethic and his history at Ohio State are good gauges, then the best is yet to come. There is no doubt in my mind that Hawk will get better, and that is a scary thought for Green Bay opponents.

Bob Fox is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at greenbaybob@hotmail.com.

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