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Monday, February 20, 2006
Former Buckeyes cashing in on popularity

Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- The 13 markers lined up next to A.J. Hawk during a recent appearance at a suburban Columbus mall were a testament to a perk that comes to Ohio State football players leaving their alma mater -- and their college eligibility -- behind.

Autograph signings, which have boomed since the Buckeyes won the 2002 national championship, can earn popular senior players thousands of dollars after the season ends, The Plain Dealer reported Sunday.

Underclassmen who get paid for autographs face NCAA sanctions. But players who are graduating or have declared for the NFL draft are free to tour a nearly statewide circuit of public and private autograph shows.

"Going to Ohio State, the older guys talked about it," senior offensive lineman Rob Sims told The Plain Dealer. "The national championship [year] those guys were cleaning up. I'm sure a big player like A.J. could probably do one every day. I just go where I fit in and make as much as I can."

Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel will be paid about $10,000 to appear as a linebacker trio in March at the Cleveland Auto Show, with Hawk getting the largest chunk, a show spokesman said. They will sign autographs for free for two hours.

At other appearances, fans are charged as much as $25 for Hawk's signature.

At the mall signing in Dublin in January, Hawk signed four photos, three mini-helmets, two programs and a football in one three-minute span. At $25 a pop, that added up to $250.

At the same pace, he could have signed $5,000 worth of autographs in an hour and $15,000 worth over the course of the three-hour event.

And extra scribbles, such as the phrases "2002 National Champs" or "2005 Lombardi Winner" cost another $15 each. Typically, players are given a flat fee for signing appearances, and stores charge for the autographs based on the amount they are paying the players.