Ask around the Carolina Panthers locker room about second year DE Greg Hardy and you're likely to get some Interesting responses. "He's a different kind of dude" says DeAngelo Williams. Most would describe him as eccentric, or even a little odd. One thing's for sure though this young man has become a fan favorite.
Hardy was born in Millington, TN where he attended Briarcrest Christian Highschool. Following his senior year he was ranked as a 3 star prospect by Rivals.com and was heavily recruited. Though several major schools recruited him including Louisville, and LSU he ultimately decided to sign with Ole Miss on February 1 of 2006.
As a freshman in 2006 Hardy played in 12 games, amassing 49 tackles (28 solo), 3 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. Illustrating his athleticism, on top of his duties as a DE he also played TE catching 1 pass for a 23 yard td. In his sophomore year the injury bug hit him, an issue that would plague him for the rest of his college career, and he only appeared in 10 games. Through 10 games he totalled 64 tackles (40 solo), 10 sacks, as well as catching 2 passes for 19 yards and 2 td's. Following his junior year where he registered 18 tackles, and 8.5 sacks Hardy was considered one of the top prospects (number 3 at one point) in the 2009 NFL Draft before he decided to return to school for his senior year. Like many other prospects who make the decision to stay in school, injuries and a perception he was lazy ultimately caused his stock to fall following his senior year where he managed 16 tackles and 5 sacks through 9 games. All totaled he finished his college career with 38.5 career TFLs and 26.5 sacks, including an SEC-best 10.0 in 2007.
Heading into the Draft process he was regarded as a player with high potential but the lazy tag combined with a history of injury caused his stock to drop dramatically. Still there was no denying his physical ability. At 6'4'' 281 lbs Hardy ran a 4.79 40 yard dash with a 1.67 10 yd split as well as jumping 10'1'' in the broad jump and 36'' in the vertical. Despite the measurable and being called a player with limitless potential by SI he fell all the way to the 6th round where the Carolina Panthers drafted him with the 175th pick.
Though he showed great promise in the 2010 preseason tallying 14 tackles, 3 sacks and a pass defensed, he was ultimately benched in favor of Fox favorite Tyler Brayton. Appearing in sparse action in 15 games his rookie year Hardy managed to rack up 24 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 pass defensed, 2 forced fumbles and a safety. Dispite clearly outplaying Brayton who didn't manage a single sack Hardy was relegated to being a relief player coming in often behind the now departed Everett Brown.
Coming into the 2011 season the Panthers were truly a team in flux. Gone was the previous coaching staff as well as most of the support staff. In comes a first year head coach and nearly an entirely new coaching staff, with DC Ron Meeks being the only holdover all be it as a secondary coach. Add to that the lockout preventing players from contacting teams and this was a trying time for a lot of NFL players. When the Lockout was finally lifted Hardy was injured in a motorcycle wreck on his way to Charlotte to join his team. "I thought I was going to die" "it's a scary thing, but that's all over with now. There's a time and a place for everything." Despite the fact that his injuries kept him from all of training camp and most of the practices back in Charlotte after camp broke, Rivera had seen enough of him on film to name him the opening day starter at DE opposite Charles "Big Money" Johnson.
In his first game as a starter The Kraken as he was dubbed by the members of CSR registered 5 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and broke up one pass. He as since adapted the nickname as a part of his personality on the field, wearing the moniker on his nose tape. So far for the season he's been a solid player registering 34 tackles, 3 sacks, a forced fumble, and 8 passes defensed. Fellow DE Charles Johnson who's having what could be a Pro Bowl season has gone on record saying he believe Hardy has what it takes to be the best DE in the NFL. Weather or no that comes to be one thing is for sure, much like his team the future is bright for the 23 year old fan favorite.