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Kevin Hardy
No. 51     
Linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1973-07-24) July 24, 1973 (age 46)
Place of birth: Evansville, Indiana
Career information
College: Illinois
NFL Draft: 1996 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2
No regular season or postseason appearances
Career history
* Jacksonville Jaguars ( 1996)
Career highlights and awards
* Freshman All-American (1992)
Games played     134
Games started     128
Tackles     741
Quarterback sacks     36.0
Interceptions     5
Forced fumbles     9
Stats at NFL.com
Stats at pro-football-reference.com

Kevin Lamont Hardy (born July 24, 1973) is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys, and Cincinnati Bengals. He played college football at the University of Illinois.

Early yearsEdit

Hardy attended William Henry Harrison High School, where he received numerous awards and accolades as a high school football player. As a senior, he posted 127 tackles (47 solo), 2 interceptions, 32 receptions for 610 yards and 13 touchdowns, 55 carries for 410 yards, returned 6 punts for 42 yards and 15 kickoffs for 344 yards. He received All-Evansville, City Player of the Year, All-Southern Indiana and Conference and Region Player of the Year honors.

He also was a cum laude honor roll student, played basketball and ran track. His basketball teammates included Calbert Cheaney, an All-American at Indiana, Walter McCarty, who played at Kentucky, and Chris Lowery who played at Southern Illinois and is now an assistant coach at Kansas State University.

College careerEdit

Hardy accepted a football scholarship from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. As a redshirt freshman, he was third on the team with 67 tackles. As a sophomore, he started all 11 games and ranked fourth on the team with 78 tackles.

As a junior, he registered 80 tackles. During his time at Illinois, the Fighting Illini had a number of outstanding linebackers. In the 1994 season, the four linebackers in coach Lou Tepper's 3–4 defense were Hardy, fellow Butkus Award winner Dana Howard, future NFL player John Holecek, and Simeon Rice. Because of this, Hardy was often overlooked as a linebacker. At his position, he was not prolific in accumulating tackles like Howard, or in quarterback sacks as was Rice, who as a "rush linebacker" played on the line of scrimmage like a defensive end.

Hardy was recognized as being among the very best linebackers in college football as a senior, winning the Dick Butkus Award and receiving consensus first-team All-American honors. He started every game at "drop" linebacker, finishing with 105 tackles (second on the team), 11 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions (tied for the team lead). He had 18 tackles against Michigan State University and 3 sacks against Indiana University.

Hardy finished his career ranked ninth on the Illinois All-time list with 330 tackles, fourth in sacks with 18, and fourth in tackles for loss with 38. He was a business major and was initiated as a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

Professional footballEdit

Jacksonville JaguarsEdit

Hardy was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the second overall choice in the 1996 NFL Draft, signing a six-year $14.8 million contract with a six million dollar signing bonus. Hardy's fellow linebacker at Illinois, Rice, was selected with the third overall choice. Hardy became the first defensive rookie in franchise history to start on opening day, going on to start 15 games. He recorded 130 tackles (second on the team), 5.5 sacks (third in the NFL among rookies), 7 quarterback hurries, 2 interceptions (tied for the team lead), 7 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and was named to the NFL All-Rookie team.[1]

In 1997, he was limited with injuries, starting 11 out of 13 games at strongside linebacker. He tallied 73 tackles (3 for loss), 2.5 sacks and 5 quarterback hurries. He suffered a sprained left medial collateral ligament against the Dallas Cowboys, missing 3 contests and seeing limited action in several games the remainder of the season because of the injury.[2] He was able to start the wild card playoff game against the Denver Broncos, collecting 8 tackles.

In 1998, with the signing of free agent Bryce Paup, he was moved to weakside linebacker and started all 16 games. He had a franchise record 186 tackles, while also making 1.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries, 2 interceptions, 7 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

In 1999, Hardy led all AFC linebackers with 10.5 sacks and led the team with 153 tackles. He also had 7 tackles for loss, 24 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, helping the Jaguars achieve a 14-win season. Hardy was selected to the Pro Bowl as well as named to the AP All-Pro first team.

In 2000, he registered 149 tackles (led the team), 3 sacks, 16 quarterback pressures, 6 tackles for loss, one interception, 5 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.

In 2001, he was moved back to strongside linebacker, but injured his knee in the ninth game of the season. At the time he had 98 tackles (second on the team), 5 1/2 sacks (tied for third on the team), 9 quarterback pressures, one interception and 4 passes defensed. It would be his last game with the Jaguars, who eventually moved him to the injured reserve list, due to needing a microfracture surgery which was thought to be career threatening, because in those days not many players fully recovered from this medical procedure.[3] He left as the franchise's All-time tackles leader, after playing six seasons, which included four trips to the NFL playoffs.

Dallas CowboysEdit

The Dallas Cowboys gambled that he could return from the complex surgery and signed him on April 14, 2002, as an unrestricted free agent, counting $2.5 million in his first year and structuring the rest of the $23 million contract with a $5.025 million option in the second year.[4]

Hardy recovered from his injury and played for the Cowboys in the 2002 NFL season, finishing the season ranked third on the team in both total (114) and solo tackles(73), while making 2 sacks, 18 quarterback pressures, 8 tackles for loss, 10 passes defensed and 3 forced fumbles. He played outside linebacker, lining up as a defensive end in some passing downs. Because of salary cap issues, he was released on February 27, 2003, in order to avoid a $5.025 million option bonus if the Cowboys retained him.

Cincinnati BengalsEdit

On March 6, 2003, he signed a four-year, $14 million USD contract with the Cincinnati Bengals as an unrestricted free agent, to be the Bengals new middle linebacker, after playing outside linebacker in his previous seasons.[5] Hardy was an integral part of the Bengals' defense, starting all 16 games, leading the team in defensive snaps played (1,030 of 1,038 for 99.2%) and was second on the team in tackles (91).

In 2004, he was moved to strongside linebacker after the signing of free agent Nate Webster, starting 14 games and making 84 tackles. The Bengals terminated Hardy's contract in a salary-cap move on May 3, 2005.[6][7]

Hardy finished his career with 742 tackles (563 solo), 36 sacks, 43.5 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, 45 pass deflections, five interceptions for 59 yards, and one touchdown in 134 games.

NFL statisticsEdit

Year Team Games Combined Tackles Tackles Assisted Tackles Sacks Forced Fumbles Fumble Recoveries Fumble Return Yards Interceptions Interception Return Yards Yards per Interception Return Longest Interception Return Interception Returned for Touchdown Passes Defended
1996 JAX 16 84 62 22 5.5 3 1 0 2 19 10 13 0 7
1997 JAX 13 56 48 8 2.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
1998 JAX 16 110 86 24 1.5 1 1 0 2 40 20 24 0 8
1999 JAX 16 97 73 24 10.5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
2000 JAX 16 85 73 12 3.0 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 6
2001 JAX 9 69 56 13 5.5 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
2002 DAL 16 75 60 15 2.0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 11
2003 CIN 16 91 88 33 1.5 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
2004 CIN 16 69 112 27 4.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
Career 134 736 608 178 36.0 11 7 0 5 59 12 24 0 45
[8]

Personal lifeEdit

Hardy currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida. In August 2007, he built his South Beach club venture, Dream Nightclub, centered around a motto that "reality is overrated." "I've been around and entertained people all my life, so I made a business out of it" said Hardy.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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