Buckeyes' Gridiron Gladiators: AJ Hawk vs. James Laurinaitis

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Buckeyes' Gridiron Gladiators: AJ Hawk vs. James Laurinaitis
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

When you look at A.J Hawk and James Laurinaitis they are two completely different players. You have Hawk, the mullet, the size, and strength. With Laurinaitis you get athleticism, speed, and an animal.

One thing they have in common is they both were phenomenal linebackers for the Ohio State University.

Hawk was a part of an elite linebacking core. They were one of the best in college football at the time; Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Shlegel, and of course AJ Hawk.

This was a linebacking core that you didn’t want to go up against for its brute strength. Hawk was the leader of these three gridiron warriors and led the team in tackles getting over 100 for three seasons in a row.

In his career at Ohio State Hawk had 38 starts, 394 tackles (196 solo), 41 stops behind the line, and 15.5 sacks.

Hawk also won the Lombardi Trophy for the best linebacker in college football.

In honor of Pat Tillman he and the rest of the linebacking core grew their hair out like the fallen ex-football star that died in Afghanistan serving for the U.S Army.

AJ Hawk was unquestionably the No. 1 linebacker in the 2006 NFL Draft class, where he was drafted fifth overall to the Green Bay Packers.

In his rookie season with the Packers, Hawk led his team in tackles with an astonishing 155 tackles, which was the most by any rookie in Green Bay. He also was third in the league in that category as well.

He currently has 310 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and three interceptions in his pro career.

James Laurinaitis played a few games with Hawk, stepping in for an injured Bobby Carpenter in the 2005 season where Carpenter injured his ankle in the second play against Michigan.

He really took off in the memorable Buckeyes 2006 season, when the Buckeyes made it to the National Championship.

In that stellar season he led the Buckeyes in tackle picking up 116, also recording four sacks and five interceptions. He was a game changer in the one-two match-up between Texas and Ohio State, his forced fumble rallied the team and they never looked back as the crushed Texas 24-7.

In 2007 he progressed a little more in talent, making 121 tackles and five sacks adding two interceptions. He had more help this season with Marcus Freeman stepping up. He was the leader of this Buckeyes defense that was the top in the nation.

In 2008 he had his best season, making 130 tackles in 13 games, with an average of exactly 10 tackles a game. He had four sacks and two interceptions.

In 2006 Laurinaitis won the Nagurski Award for best defensive player.

He won the 2007 Big Ten Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and the Butkus Award for most outstanding linebacker. 

In 2008, he was the winner of the Ronnie Lott Trophy, the recipient of the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, was voted the nations top defender bu the Maxwell Club and was nominated for the Bednarik Award.

When you look at these two fantastic players you have to look at their style of defense. The Buckeye defense A.J Hawk was on had big pounders for linebackers, while Laurinaitis had more athletic type linebackers.

Laurinaitis was better at protecting the pass than Hawk was, but Hawk was better at stopping the run than Laurinaitis.

When you look at their bowl records there is a slight edge to Hawk, because that defense stopped Brady Quinn and the Irish’s highly talented offense, and was the last team to win a bowl game with Ohio State.

Since then, the Buckeyes went to two national titles and the Fiesta Bowl and lost all three. That was with Laurinaitis leading their team.

They were similar in the fact that they loved it at Ohio State. Both would have been first round picks had they gone their junior seasons, but they both stayed because they loved the college game and they wanted to lead their team to a national championship. Also they both led their team in tackles for three years in a row.

You can’t really say one was better than the other, because they were both two separate styles of players.

Hawk did have more tackles, 394 to Laurinaitis' 376, but Laurinaitis was on a defense where you would see a sea of red jerseys flying to the ball.

It will be interesting to watch, because since Laurinaitis was drafted by the Rams we will see these two gladiators play on opposing teams twice a year, but it would be an amazing defensive team to see two of Ohio State’s best backers play together at their prime.

The first time we will see the "Baby Animal" and the Hawk play against each other is September 27, we’ll see whose contributions lead their team to victory.

 

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