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NFL’s Broadcast Boot Camp led A.J. Hawk to The HawkCast

By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider

Inspired in part by the NFL’s Broadcast Boot Camp, A.J. Hawk is looking to become as successful in his post-NFL career as he was in his 10-year career with the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals.

The linebacker, who was the fifth overall pick of the Packers out of Ohio State in the 2006 NFL Draft, is the host of The HawkCast, a podcast he began during his final years as a player and now hopes to do more with in his retirement.

“My last five years, or so, I kind of knew,’’ Hawk said of what he wanted in his post-NFL career. “I had been doing some work in the media. Then, in 2012 I went to the (NFL) Broadcast Boot Camp. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue and that boot camp showed how much work went into it. That really let me know that it was something I wanted to do.’’

Broadcast Boot Camp, which will celebrate its 10th year this May, provides players on-set training in broadcasting to build experience and derive interests. Players can explore multiple on-air job functions in the media.

“It was great,’’ Hawk said. “In Green Bay, I was doing weekly hits with NFL Network on camera and I did some stuff with local television stations, some post-game shows where I brought teammates on and stuff like that. I was always reaching out to different people in the media asking how I could get better.’’

Hawk began his podcast his final season with the Packers in 2014, and it’s reached over 100 episodes.

“It’s a little harder obviously while you’re still playing to put out the podcast consistently,’’ he said “It all started because I was fan of listening to other people’s podcasts. When I had some down time, or was in the car, that’s what I would do.’’

So, what’s better than listening to a good podcast? Having your own, and that’s what Hawk did.

“I figured I would try it,’’ Hawk said.

And he went from being the person interviewed to the one asking the questions.

“I knew it would be a difference,’’ he said “A lot of times players think just because you have been interviewed plenty of times, you can be the guy on the other side. It’s not that easy. I realized that.’’

The HawkCast is more than an interview-type show and it’s more than football, or even sports. There have been some football-based shows, where former teammates have joined Hawk. But they didn’t just talk about the game.

“I try to keep it as a casual forum, just a conversation, really,’’ Hawk said. “We usually go about an hour; a couple have gone longer.’’

Some of Hawk’s guests have included Brett Michaels, John Daley, Bob Costas, Joe Buck and his former teammate with the Packers, Aaron Rodgers. He’s also had members of the military, astronauts, and writers.

“Anyone I felt I would want to talk to I’ve tried to get,’’ he said. “I really enjoy it. Now, that I have the time, I’d like to be more consistent with it, put out at least one a week, maybe two a week.’’

What Hawk does not plan to do is change the format or make it commercial.

“I just want to make it a good show,’’ he said “I don’t want to put it on TV or anything. I think that’s one of the reasons people like podcasts. So, I want to keep it that way.’’

Hawk hopes the success of the Podcast can lead him into a broadcast booth to be a color analyst. He did the Stanford/Oregon State game last fall for the Fox Network and hopes more games will be coming this fall.

“I’d like to get up in the booth one day and call games. I really enjoyed the game I did for Fox Hopefully, I can get a regular shift.’’

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