Joe Hawley trades football for life on the open road

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jun 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-28 23:32:59-04

At first glance, you may just see a man, a van, and a dog; but there is much more to this story. 

Recently retired, Joe Hawley spent the last eight years of his life playing football for the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

"When the season was over and I knew I was going to do this, there was still this weird void that I felt. I didn't think I would feel that because I thought I was prepared for it. But it was still there and this trip has helped me with that and fill that void," said the former NFL center, now on the trip of a lifetime. 

Now just a guy on the road, Joe has enjoyed replacing game days with days spent with those closest to him. 

"I spent the first two months circling the south-east seeing people that I love. So now that I'm on the open road I decided to do a baseball tour. I've always wanted to do one. That's what I'm on now. I visited Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and now I'm in Milwaukee and I'm finishing up in Chicago next weekend," said Hawley. 

Tacking on the miles since April, Joe shares his travels through social media which allows him to meet fans of old and new. 

"It's really blowing my mind because I'm just having fun being me and to see people respond the way they have it's really inspired me to create a positive message and share it even more," said Hawley. 

But don't forget, Joe isn't alone on this journey. His rescue pup has been there every step of the way. 

"She's seen more of the country than I think most dogs even dream of. She loves sticking her head out the window and sniffing the streets," said Hawley. 

And with a name like freedom, she represents more than four paws and a wagging tail. 

"I was on the way home and it was three weeks before we started, she was free and I was free. I was talking to my sister and started singing George Michael's Freedom, and my sister was like that's the perfect name. It's a new fresh start for both of us and the name fits that perfectly," said Hawley. 

You can keep up with Joe and Freedom via social media and the