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Q: Obviously you have established yourself as a linebacker in college, but you played several positions in high school and while growing up, talk about that?
A: “I played both ways most of the time in high school – special teams, too. I was tired a lot, but it was great. That is the way I like playing football. Growing up, I was mainly an offensive guy. I was in high school before defense was introduced to me.”
Q: You mainly played running back in high school, but had to fill in several games at quarterback. Has that given you an added appreciation for the position?
A: “I think the speed of the game is a little faster at quarterback. People watch guys on TV and think it looks easy, but when you are on the field you realize how hard a position it is. I have a lot of respect for quarterbacks. They are under so much pressure to throw the ball on time. I am convinced it is the toughest position on the field.”
Q: People might be surprised to hear this, but you were a punter in high school, averaging 40 yards per kick, right?
A: “Yes. I liked punting. As a kid, I did Punt, Pass and Kick all through junior high. I started punting for my seventh grade team and it carried through high school.”
Q: If the team were in a pinch during a game this season, do you think you could step in and boot a 40-yarder now?
A: “I think I could handle punting if needed. I don’t do it much anymore other than messing around at practice, but I think I would be able to get the job done, but not as good as some of the guys we have had and have now.”
Q: You also were a part-time place kicker in high school. What if the team needed you for that as well?
A: “I was a decent kicker at best. I kicked a little as a senior in high school, but my coach found someone better than me and my kicking days were over.”
Q: As a senior in high school, you were injured and missed five games. How did that impact you?
A: “I had never sat out a game before. I got hurt in the first game of my senior season. At times, I was starting to feel down, but I realized things could always be worse. I knew if I rehabbed right, I could get back in a couple weeks and luckily that happened.”
Q: Favorite movie
Q: Favorite Actor
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Q: Were there any professional stars that were favorites of yours?
A: “When I was little I loved offensive guys. When I was younger, I loved watching Bo Jackson play. He was such a great athlete.”
Q: So Bo Jackson was your favorite growing up. Anyone on the defensive side of the ball you have enjoyed watching the most?
A: “When I got into high school and now, my favorite player to watch is Zach Thomas, the linebacker for the Dolphins. I think he is one of the best. I don’t think I have ever seen him make a mistake.”
Q: Any significance to your No. 47? Did you wear it in high school?
A: “I wore No. 34 in high school. I got 47 when I got here and I have grown to like it. I never thought about my number much, but I think it has worked out alright so far.”
Q: Ohio State won the national championship in your first collegiate season. What was that like as a learning experience, especially playing with the veteran linebacking crew at the time?
A: “Coming in, I did not really know what to expect. Playing with Matt Wilhelm and Cie Grant taught me how to remain calm and focused on my assignments. Watching and learning from the older guys was a big help in learning how to handle yourself in all situations.”
Q: You made quite an impact your freshman season, making some big hits. What was that like?
A: “I got here and was lucky enough to get on three or four of the special teams. We were able to get leads on some of our early opponents and the second team was able to get some time. A lot can happen in those opportunities and I was able to make a couple plays.”
Q: You also picked off two passes as a freshman, returning one for a touchdown vs. Kent State. How did it feel to score a touchdown in Ohio Stadium as a freshman?
A: “It was great because as a defensive guy you don’t get to score that many touchdowns. To be that young and have something like that happen was amazing.”
Q: You are well-known for being a big hitter, but you have come through in the clutch several times with big interceptions at critical points of the game. Talk about that.
A: “Penn State and N.C. State came at more crucial points in those games. Against Penn State (in 2002), Cie Grant was out, so I got the start. To come in and get that play early in the game was huge. N.C. State (in 2003) was huge too. Philip Rivers was a great quarterback. Once again, I was in the right place and almost scored on the return, but I did not quite make it.”
Q: Last season, you again made a huge interception to help win the game at Michigan State. Talk about that play.
A: “They were driving and I knew we needed to make a play and get off the field. Their quarterback rolled out and tried to squeeze a pass to a wide receiver on the sideline. I stepped in front and I knew I caught the ball, but was not positive I got my knee inbounds. I got nervous when it went to replay, but once I heard I was in, obviously I was very pleased. I made that play and then Mo Hall scored a long touchdown. It was a great feeling to get that win.”
Q: You had some company as a freshman linebacker when you were joined by several other well-acclaimed recruits in Bobby Carpenter and Mike D’Andrea. How has that helped as team leaders?
A: “Bobby, Mike and I all came in our freshman year and played. That is a great thing. We got valuable experience. We have grown together. We are tight as a unit and play off each other. It has been fun to be out there with those guys.”
Q: Does A.J. Hawk fear anything?
A: “Of course. I’m not a big fan of snakes, that’s for sure. I also don’t like spiders. Sharks are scary too, but they are pretty cool to watch though.”
Q: Rumor has it that you and some other players tried Yoga during preseason last year. Any truth to that?
A: “I did it regularly for about two or three months two springs ago. That was something I was able to do when we had more time in the spring. I don’t do it anymore. It was really tough though. I think it is really good for not only your flexibility, but also your balance and your whole body strength. I was pretty sore afterwards.”