Joe Hawley wasn’t the best center to walk through the doors at Flowery Branch, but he was one of the more fun ones, with his gigantic beard, penchant for scrappiness, and his key role on some of the best teams of the Mike Smith era. He moved on to Tampa Bay and the Falcons moved on to Alex Mack, but it’s hard not to have a soft spot in your heart for Brawley.
That’s why I was interested to read that Hawley, just 29 years old, has decided to walk away from the game of football. As chronicled in the Tampa Bay Times, Hawley has lost 40 pounds (!), so the fact that the Buccaneers weren’t planning to pick up his $2.5 million option for 2018 doesn’t come as a shock or a major disappointment to him.
“When the season was over, I was thinking about what I wanted to do next, because I know my career is coming to a close,” Hawley said on the radio appearance. “So I decided I’m going to get rid of everything I own, give it away to charity, families in need. I bought a van recently and I’m going to move into this van, travel the country and live out of it.”
Hawley, who started 23 games for Atlanta at center and guard, was a pretty reliable and versatile player for a few years there, though he sometimes got tossed around at the point of attack. Unsurprisingly, he followed Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith to Tampa Bay when the Falcons decided not to keep him around, and he started quite a few games for them in 2015 and 2016 before finding himself on the bench last year.
Very few players get to leave football on their own terms, so I applaud Hawley for his choice. He’ll have hopefully have a long, enjoyable life outside of football, and we wish him well.