Anttaj “Taj” Hawthorne is a former NFL and AFL football defensive lineman. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut on November 15, 1981. He moved to Hamden, CT in the 5th grade, where he was introduced to sports by his older brother, Tony Hawthorne. His first sport was baseball and it wasn’t until middle school that he found football while living in Eudora, Arkansas with his aunt for a year.
He attended Hamden High School, played on the varsity football team all four years of his high career and was a member of the 2000 USA Today High School All-American football team. In 2016, he was inducted to the Hamden Education Foundation Hall of Fame.
Anttaj received a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin and was the first 5-star recruit to attend the Univ. of Wisconsin. He played football for four years as a team leader, standout player and team captain during his senior year. He earned third team All-American honors and was also named All-Big Ten Conference three times.
Anttaj was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the sixth round of the 2005 NFL Draft and in March 2006 he was allocated by the Raiders to the Frankfurt Galaxy of the NFL Europe. He helped the team win their fourth World Bowl and appeared in all 16 games for the Raiders in 2006. After being waived in September 2007, he began his transition from the National Football League to the Arena Football League.
He was signed by the Arizona Rattlers in 2008 and played arena football through 2016. During his time with the Rattlers playing arena ball, they won Second Team All-Arena (2010), First Team All-Arena (2011) and 3X Arena Bowl champion (2012-2014). In 2018, Anttaj was inducted into the Arizona Rattlers Ring of Honor.