Former Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Joe Hawley earned over $13 million during his eight-year career. After being released by Tampa Bay back in February, Hawley decided enough was enough. He retired at the young age of 29 due to the game taking a physical toll on him. He no longer had the passion for football. So why not just call it quits?
Hawley retiring isn’t necessarily news in and of itself. Instead, it’s all about his post-football plans. See, the former offensive lineman has decided to donate pretty much all of his belongings and drive a van cross country with his dog — a boxer he rescued from a kill shelter named Freedom.
“If it doesn’t fit in my van, I’m giving it away,” Hawley told ESPN. “I thought about putting it in storage when I’m on the road, but I kind of want to start over when I’m done with the trip and have a fresh start, so I decided to give it all away. … I don’t need a lot of things to be happy.”
The van in question is a 2007 Ford E-350. It replaces the Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe he was seen driving around the Tampa area before making this life transition. According to said ESPN report, Hawley decided on a cross country trip after watching the Netflix documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.
Now 50 pounds lighter than his playing days, Hawley is documenting his cross-country trip via his Man Van Dog Blog. And it’s all sorts of spectacular.
About that adorable pup he rescued from a kill shelter.
“She was like shaking in her cage. She was so scared and nervous. So I knew she’d be grateful. … I knew, ‘This is the one.’ I started singing George Michael’s ‘Freedom,'” Hawley said. “And she was like, ‘That’s what you should name her.'”
This is an incredible story. And it’s going to be interesting to see where this trip takes Hawley and Freedom. It’s also much different than how other former NFL players decide to spend their retirements. How liberating this must be after nearly a decade of following someone else’s rules.