Jan. 2, 2006
TEMPE, Ariz. - The sun is beginning to fade behind Sun Devil Stadium on this warm Monday afternoon in Tempe, Ariz. It is a poignant scene for Ohio State fans who have made the trek to the Valley from Columbus. And it is not because another day of their mid-winter trip to Arizona is about to come to an end.
A.J. Hawk has just taken the field for the last time as a Buckeye.
In this, the last of a four-part series highlighting Ohio State's four captains, the two-time All-American linebacker reflects back on his four years as a Buckeye.
"I will miss my teammates the most," Hawk said. "Especially the guys I came in with and the guys I'm leaving with."
Those guys have helped Ohio State win 42 games during the last four years. Another win would tie the school record for wins by one class. Among those 42 wins are three victories over Michigan and three bowl wins, including two here in the Fiesta Bowl.
A win today over Notre Dame would mark just the second time the Buckeyes have won four consecutive bowl games and the first time they have done it in four consecutive years.
Looking back on those wins, Hawk identified a few that he will always remember, but was quick to name the game he hopes he will remember most.
"Hopefully this game," Hawk said. "And I'll always remember my first start my freshman year against Penn State and the triple-overtime game against N.C. State when I was a sophomore."
It does not seem that long ago that he was a freshman at Ohio State from his hometown of Centerville, Ohio.
"Back then we still had freshman camp," Hawk said. "I remember trying to learn as much as I could before the older guys got there. I'm sure I was just running around trying to figure out what I was doing."
Not only did he figure out what he was doing, but he has done it so well that he is among the best linebackers to ever play for the Buckeyes. His 382 career tackles are fifth-most in school history.
It is the victories, however, in which Hawk takes most pride. And the fact he won those games along side his teammates is what he will always remember.
"It would be huge to win all my bowl games and beat Michigan three times," Hawk said. "When this class came in there was a lot of talk about us and to have the success we have had hopefully puts us up among the best."
No doubt his class will, indeed, be ranked among the best in Ohio State history. With guys like A.J. Hawk in their midst, they were destined for it.