Hawk family has divided loyalties going into annual Army-Navy game

Bill Wagner
Contact Reporterbwagner@capgaznews.com

Gathering to watch the Army-Navy game has always been a tradition for the Hawk family.

John Hawk, a career Army man, felt an obligation to introduce his wife and three sons to the football contest that shines a spotlight on those two branches of the armed services.

“The Army-Navy game is very important in this household,” said John Hawk, who served 20 years of active duty in various divisions of the supply corps.

Naturally, the whole family always rooted for Army since John Hawk wore the camouflage uniform. Those long-time allegiances have been severely tested ever since the youngest of the Hawk children enrolled at the Naval Academy.

Jake Hawk is the starting left tackle for the Navy football team and that has caused every member of his family to reevaluate their loyalties. John and Nadgee Hawk are unwavering in their support of Jake so they now root for Navy to beat Army. Paul and Zach Hawk both currently served in the Unites States Army so they are a bit more ambivalent.

Zach Hawk, a 24-year-old specialist who is stationed at the Grafenwoehr Army Base in Germany, will reluctantly pull for Navy this year out of respect for his little brother. In fact, Zach just purchased a sweatshirt that mimics the Blue Angels-inspired design of the uniforms the Midshipmen will wear in Saturday’s Army-Navy game.

“I’m in the Army, but I have to have my brother’s back on this one,” Zach said.

Paul Hawk, a 26-year-old specialist stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, has not been so easily swayed. Paul will be rooting for Army on Saturday, which is why he will not be sitting with the rest of his family members at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

“I just can’t do it. I grew up rooting for Army and I just can’t get away from what I’ve grown accustomed to doing,” Paul said. “I will root for Jake to do well in the game, but I want Army to win.”

However, an example of the ambivalence Paul feels is the fact he will wear a specially-designed jersey on Saturday that expresses his dual loyalty. While the jersey is Army green with camouflage trim, it features the name Hawk on the back and Jake’s No. 57.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Jake. I want everyone to know that’s my little brother out there on the field,” Paul said.

Jake Hawk is not sure he wants anyone to see his name and number on an Army jersey. “I feel like Paul is supporting himself with that jersey. Don’t worry, we’ll give him a Navy sweater to put over it,” Jake said.

John Hawk grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, but moved to Melbourne, Florida, as a teenager to live with his father. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder was a standout football player at Eau Gallie High and went on to play at Concord College, an NAIA school in West Virginia.

John enlisted in the Army after graduating college in 1988 and was initially stationed at Fort Clayton in Panama for four years. That is where he met Nadgee, a Panamanian native whose sister was engaged to an officer in the Military Police company that John was attached with.

Following a whirlwind romance, John and Nadgee were married in October, 1990 and their first child was born in Panama City. John Hawk would be transferred to Fort Carson in Colorado then later to Fort Stewart and Fort Gordon in Georgia. He served various deployments in Qatar, Korea, Bosnia and Iraq – rising to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3.

After agreeing to back-to-back deployments, John was allowed to select his next station assignment and requested Fort Meade in order to be closer to family in Pennsylvania. So the Hawk family settled into base housing on Fort Meade in 2004.

All three boys attended Meade High with Paul and Zach both excelling in football and baseball. Paul (5-10, 190) was a hard-hitting linebacker for the Mustangs while Zach (5-8, 185) would become the starting quarterback. They both wound up playing baseball at Coppin State University before joining the military.

John Hawk served as a volunteer assistant football coach at Meade High from 2005 through 2014, working under four different head coahes during that span. John, a hard-nosed offensive line coach, did not harbor much hope that his younger son would continue the family tradition on the gridiron.

Jake Hawk did not participate in youth football, preferring to indulge an interest in music by playing the trumpet and saxophone. However, the youngest of the three Hawk children was the only one blessed with his father’s size and Meade head coach Rich Holzer basically ordered him to play football at the high school level.

“If you would have told me when Jake was a freshman that he would wind up playing Division I football I would have laughed in your face,” said Paul, who spent one season as an assistant at Meade and helped coach his little brother. “When Jake first started playing football, he had no idea what to do.”

Jake Hawk kept getting bigger and stronger to the point he now checks in at 6-foot-6 and 295 pounds. The Severn resident received an offer to play for Navy after attending a summer camp in Annapolis and impressing the coaching staff.

Jake Hawk had an immediate interest in attending the Naval Academy because so many relatives have military ties. “A big reason why I wanted to serve was because my whole family has served. If you go back generations, it’s all Army, Army, Army,” he said.

John Hawk readily admits he hoped Jake would wind up playing football at Army West Point, but the coaching staff in place at the time did not recruit the Meade High standout. Despite being raised to root for Army, Jake Hawk had no qualms about becoming a turncoat.

“It wasn’t that hard of a changeover. To be honest, Army didn’t show much interest in the first place. So that made it pretty easy to decide to come here,” Jake said.

John Hawk bought his first Navy football hat the day Jake committed to head coach Ken Niumatalolo and now has a full wardrobe of blue and gold gear. Retired from active duty and now working at Fort Meade as Deputy Logistics Officer for the Asymmetric Warfare Group, he routinely shows up to the office wearing a Navy sweatshirt and cap.

“I work with a bunch of West Point graduates and there’s a lot of good-natured ribbing back-and-forth,” said John, whose supervisor is Army Major Robert Freeman.

Being a former football player and longtime coach, John Hawk enjoys attending Navy football practice to observe and has gotten to know many of the assistant coaches well. He has sat in the football offices on the third floor of Ricketts Hall and watched film with offensive line coach Ashley Ingram, fullbacks coach Mike Judge and defensive line coach Shaun Nua.

CNN Television recently ran a feature on the Hawk family titled “A House Divided” and John Hawk declared during an on-camera interview that he would return to rooting for Army after Jake graduated from the Naval Academy.

“Until May of 2019, I will be a die-hard Navy fan. The day Jake throws his hat in the air and is no longer a midshipman is the day I switch back to my loyalty to Army,” he said.

A week later, John was having reservations about that statement after thinking things through and realizing the relationships he has developed with members of the Navy coaching staff cannot simply be severed overnight.

“Those coaches have loved and embraced my son. I think the ties I have with the Navy football program are too strong to break,” John said during an interview at the family’s home in the Boyer’s Ridge community of Severn. “I’ll probably keep rooting for Navy as long as this coaching staff is there.”

Jake Hawk spent the 2014-2015 academic year at the Naval Academy Prep School and is now in his third year in Annapolis. He played in every game as a backup offensive tackle as a sophomore before moving into the starting lineup as a junior.

Now a Navy man through and through, Jake is trying to forget that he was a die-hard Army football fan throughout youth.

“It seems like a very distant memory at this point. I can’t be farther from that now. I wish Army success, just not against us,” he said. “I just love this program, love the coaching staff, love this school.”

Jake Hawk was allowed to dress and stand on the sideline for the 2015 Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. He watched the Midshipmen extend their historic winning streak against the Black Knights to 14 games.

Hawk played in his first Army-Navy game last year and was part of a bitter 21-17 defeat.

“I’ve never felt that bad after a loss in my whole life,” Hawk said solemnly. “My brothers definitely rubbed it in.”

One member of the Hawk family has never even considered supporting Army since the youngest of the three boys started playing for Navy.

“I root for Navy. Period. That’s it,” said Nadgee Hawk, who was in tears after seeing Jake following last year’s loss to Army. “His heart was crushed so that upset me.”

When Paul and Zach pointed out to their mother that they both serve in the Army, it was no consolation. “They didn’t play in that game, but Jake did,” Nadgee said. “There is always a little trash talk among the boys. They can’t help themselves. It’s who they are.”

Jake Hawk appreciates that his mother is completely loyal to Navy football in this internal family dispute.

“My brothers don’t play for Army so obviously all of her support is with me, which I really appreciate. I need someone on my side with this,” he said.

This is a hectic week for the Hawk family as Zach is getting married on Friday at the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Almost a dozen family members will be in town for the wedding while nine are slated to make the two-hour drive to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy game.

John and Nadgee Hawk had all three of their sons home at the same time the weekend after Thanksgiving. “We haven’t all three been together in over two years so that was a really nice experience,” Jake said.

One interesting and fun fact is that Jake Hawk will have to salute both Paul and Zach Hawk after being commissioned as an ensign in the Navy. At the end of the Army-Navy game, when the alma maters for the two service academies are played, John is joined by Paul and Zach in making a major declaration.

“We all have to say ‘Go Army, Beat Navy,’ but we totally support Jake,” John Hawk said.

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