Aug. 27, 2005

A highlight film of Ronnie Lott’s legendary football career is entitled “Fire & Ice.”

If they do one on Ohio State’s All-American linebacker A.J. Hawk it might be called “Power & Passion.”

Hawk, on the Watch List for the second annual Lott Trophy, is more than a worthy candidate for the award, the first college sports award based on personal character.

Like Lott, Hawk plays the game with tenacity and efficiency. Off the field, he’s exhibited his character in his long-time relationship with former high-school classmate Mark MacDonald, a quadriplegic who is wheelchair bound.

The two have a unique bond, a friendship that would look like any other between a pair of 21-year-olds, but for fact that Hawk is a much decorated, high-profile star on a major college team and MacDonald labors just to prop himself up.

Says Norman Hassertt, MacDonald’s foster father: “A.J. is so well grounded. With all of his success, I am immensely impressed with the fact that he focuses on those who supported him along the way. So many people forget that.”

Hawk visits MacDonald when he returns to his hometown of Centerville, Ohio, where he was a standout his first three seasons before sitting out much of his senior year with an injury. It was during that time that he and MacDonald struck up a friendship.

Four years later, Hawk hasn’t forgotten his friend. “A.J.’s relationship with Mark speaks volumes about him as a person,” said Mike Ullery, Centerville’s football coach.

“The biggest thing I get from him (MacDonald) is if I had a bad day or something hurts, I think about what he’s gong through,” says the 6-1, 240-pound Hawk. “It takes so much work just to get him out of his house if he wants to do something. I realize I can’t complain about practice or some workout I have to do. He’d give anything just to be able to do that for one day.”

Says Lott, who is a member of the Football Hall of Fame: “Players who create an incredible impact on the field are valuable. The players who do it off the field, like A.J. Hawk, are even more valuable.” On the field, Hawk led the Buckeyes with 141 tackles in 2004 and is on pace to 400 career tackles at OSU. His 11.8 tackles per game placed him second in the Big Ten last year. He wears a national championship ring and was the 2003 Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP. Hawk was named to the Football Writers, Sporting News, Associated Press, and Walter Camp All-American teams last year and should be in the running for all of the defensive awards in 2005 – including The Lott Trophy.