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Published: Thursday, June 06, 2019 @ 10:16 AM
— The football careers of A.J. Hawk and Mike Nugent have a way of coming together.
Teammates from elementary school up to Ohio State, they even shared a roster in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The next thing they will do together is enter the Ohio State Varsity ‘O’ Athletics Hall of Fame this fall.
The two Centerville High School grads are part of the 2019 class announced Thursday morning.
In separate interviews, they had similar reactions to finding out they are joining an elite group of the best of the best to wear scarlet and gray.
“If I didn’t go to Ohio State, I don’t know where I’d be. I have no idea what life I’d be living right now,” Hawk said.
“When I think about it now, I have four kids, my wife is from Dublin and that’s where I live. My whole social circle has connections to Ohio State and everyone I’m around and everything I do. We’re having a big charity event this Friday night at our place in Columbus and a lot of them are Ohio State supporters. I just don’t know.”
Nugent, who is rehabbing from hip surgery in Arizona and hoping to be back in the NFL this fall, said his time at Ohio State changed his life forever as well.
While Hawk famously married Laura Quinn, the sister of Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, Nugent said he met his wife on the first Buckeye Cruise for Cancer in 2008.
“I wouldn’t have been invited on that if I didn’t play at Ohio State, and she was luckily on the same one,” Nugent said. "I wouldn’t have my daughters. It’s just, I’m just so thankful for what Ohio State did for me. It’s just such a great honor that I get to be inducted into the hall of fame.”
Nugent beat Hawk to Columbus by a year after being part of the first Ohio State recruiting class of coach Jim Tressel.
He endured a rocky freshman season in 2001 only to become one of the greatest kickers in school history.
Nugent made 25 of 28 field goals during Ohio State’s 2002 national championship season and ended up 72 for 88 in his career, including 8 of 9 from 50 yards or more. He was a two-time All-American and won the Lou Groza Award in 2004 as the nation’s top kicker.
He is Ohio State’s all-time leader in field goal accuracy (81.8) and points (356).
Hawk was part of Tressel’s celebrated 2002 recruiting class and made an immediate impact in the fall, serving as a key reserve for the national champs before starting for three seasons at linebacker.
He won the Lombardi Award and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 while earning All-America honors twice and three first-team All-Big Ten nods.
He finished his career with 41 tackles for loss and 15 sacks.
Hawk’s 394 tackles are fifth in Ohio State history and the most for an Ohio State player since Chris Spielman wrapped up his career with 546 in 1987.
“I can’t imagine what my life would be if I didn’t get a scholarship and go to Ohio State and try to make the best of it,” Hawk said. “I guess I wasn’t thinking about it when I was 18 years old and walked on campus. I’d do anything for those coaches and my teammates there. It’s a very special place.”
The newest class of Ohio State athletics hall of famers also includes Andrew Pierce, a sprinter from Yellow Springs.
The three area standouts are part of a high-profile class that also includes basketball coaches Thad Matta (men’s) and Jim Foster (women’s) along with players Boyd Cherry (football), Justin Fry (baseball), Stan Lyons (track and field), Natalie Spooner (women’s ice hockey) and RJ Umberger (men’s ice hockey).