GREEN BAY—Attending the NFL’s “Broadcast Boot Camp” this past week was an eye-opener for A.J. Hawk.
It also has sparked an interest in a possible post-football career for the eighth-year linebacker.
Along with two dozen current and former players, Hawk spent 3 ½ days at NFL Films in Mt. Laurel, N.J., getting an introductory crash course in the broadcast business and trying his hand at various duties.
He wrote a script, loaded it into the teleprompter and delivered it. He tried studio analysis, giving opinions and debating topics in a talk-show setting. He also conducted interviews.
“That was really different for us,” Hawk said. “I’ve never been the one asking questions. It’s not easy, I know that much.”
Hawk said he talked in advance with former Packers teammate Brady Poppinga, who has attended the camp in the past, so he had some idea what to expect. He was impressed with the number of big-name network personalities and producers who served as the “faculty,” led by CBS studio host James Brown.
“They tell you that giving interviews does not help you,” Hawk said. “Just because we’ve given hundreds of interviews over our careers, that’s nothing. That doesn’t compare to when you’re on the other side and you’re the one asking the questions and trying to give intelligent opinions on things. You have to really prepare, and they made sure to let us know how much they prepare.”
The professionals didn’t hold back in their evaluations of the novices’ work, which Hawk appreciated.
“Whenever we filmed something, we’d come back as a group and watch it, and they’d critique us just like we do when we watch a game,” Hawk said. “They weren’t nice all the time with their critiques. They were brutally honest, and we need that.”
Hawk’s favorite part was stepping into the booth as a color analyst alongside a play-by-play announcer and calling the action. He wore headphones, had a producer in his ear and gave it his best shot.
Even though most of the week Hawk felt out of his comfort zone, he said being a color man in the booth felt the most natural. It has him seriously thinking about honing that craft and seeing where it leads when he’s done playing.
“As football players, we’re used to talking about football, and you’re trying to convey what’s happening and why teams are doing certain things,” Hawk said.
“Watching the Heat (in Game 7 of the NBA Finals) last night, they’re pros. The announcers make it look easy. They make it sound like a conversation going on during the game, but it’s tough to make it natural.”
Hawk, the Packers’ first-round draft pick in 2006, has no plans to hang up his cleats anytime soon, but he wanted to attend the boot camp while he was still playing to make some contacts and start planning ahead. He’s very glad he did.
“It’s something I was pretty passionate about going into this week, and then now that I’ve been in it and seen how much work it takes, I think I’m more into it,” he said. “I’m inspired to try to get better and explore all the different opportunities there are.”