Ohio State's Hawk takes home Lombardi Award

Updated: December 8, 2005, 8:12 AM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk won the Rotary Lombardi Award as the nation's top college lineman or linebacker Wednesday night, becoming the fifth Buckeye to receive the honor.

Rotary Lombardi Award Winners
Year Player School Position
2005 A.J. Hawk Ohio St. LB
2004 David Pollack Georgia DE
2003 Tommie Harris Oklahoma DT
2002 Terrell Suggs Arizona St. DE
2001 Julius Peppers North Carolina DE
2000 Jamal Reynolds Florida St. DE
1999 Corey Moore Virginia Tech DE
1998 Dat Nguyen Texas A&M LB
1997 Grant Wistrom Nebraska DE
1996 Orlando Pace Ohio St. OT
1995 Orlando Pace Ohio St. OT
1994 Warren Sapp Miami DT
1993 Aaron Taylor Notre Dame OT
1992 Marvin Jones Florida St. LB
1991 Steve Emtman Washington DT
1990 Chris Zorich Notre Dame NT
1989 Percy Snow Michigan St. LB
1988 Tracy Rocker Auburn DT
1987 Chris Spielman Ohio St. LB
1986 Cornelius Bennett Alabama LB
1985 Tony Casillas Oklahoma NG
1984 Tony Degrate Texas DT
1983 Dean Steinkuhler Nebraska G
1982 Dave Rimington Nebraska C
1981 Kenneth Sims Texas DT
1980 Hugh Green Pittsburgh DE
1979 Brad Budde USC G
1978 Bruce Clark Penn St. DT
1977 Ross Browner Notre Dame DE
1976 Wilson Whitley Houston DT
1975 Lee Roy Selmon Oklahoma DT
1974 Randy White Maryland DT
1973 John Hicks Ohio St. OT
1972 Rich Glover Nebraska MG
1971 Walt Patulski Notre Dame DE
1970 Jim Stillwagon Ohio St. MG

The other three finalists were Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil, Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny and Texas defensive tackle Rod Wright.

"Anyone who's up for any kind of award, it's a reflection of the team and the guys around them," said Hawk, Ohio State's leading tackler for three straight seasons. "A lot of people don't realize how much the other 10 guys out there help."

About 250 coaches, former finalists and media members voted for the award, given annually by the Houston Rotary Club. Chuck Poole, the event's public relations director, said the club does not release a breakdown of the votes.

Hawk is the first Buckeye to win since Orlando Pace won for the second time in 1996. Jim Stillwagon (1970), John Hicks (1973) and Chris Spielman (1987) also won the award for Ohio State.

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Hawk was also named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year this year by a panel of coaches and media. He's also in the running for the Walter Camp (player of the year), Bednarik (best defensive player) and Butkus (best linebacker) awards.

The Lombardi Award was initiated by Houston's rotary club in 1970, shortly after its Hall of Fame namesake -- Vince Lombardi -- died of cancer.

The design of the 40-pound trophy -- a block of granite mounted on a steel base -- is a nod to Lombardi's college playing days. Before guiding the Green Bay Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowls, Lombardi was an offensive guard at Fordham in the 1930s, part of a unit nicknamed the "Seven Blocks of Granite."

Hawk was a little surprised to win. He couldn't pinpoint one performance where he felt like he did everything right.

"It's tough to pick a best game because some games I made some big plays, but then missed a couple of tackles and didn't execute, and then other times, I didn't make big plays but felt like I did execute," he said. "Each game, there are always a couple of things I didn't like that I did."

Still, he did enough.

The senior led Ohio State this season with 109 tackles and 13 behind the line. He ranks fifth on the school's all-time tackles list with 382 heading into Ohio State's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matchup with Notre Dame.

He also led a defense that was the nation's best against the run, giving up only 74.5 yards per game. The Buckeyes also led the Big Ten in scoring, passing and total defense.

Hawk won the award in Wright's hometown.

The 6-5, 315-pound Wright starred at Alief Hastings High School and had his mother, father and sister in the audience.

Wright said the second-ranked Longhorns have already started studying No. 1 USC, the team they'll play for the national championship in the Rose Bowl.

"You can't help but see Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and the guys and that offense, you can't help but see the highlights," Wright said. "We have a pretty good idea what we're dealing with."

The 6-foot, 256-pound Dumervil leads the nation with 20 sacks. The senior also set an NCAA record with 10 forced fumbles, broke up four passes and intercepted a pass.

The 6-2, 229-pound Posluszny ranked fourth in the Big Ten with 111 tackles. He was the only junior among the finalists.

None of the four coaches attended the ceremony.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press