Kevin Hardy

Kevin Lamont Hardy (born July 24, 1973) is a former American college and professional football player who was a linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for nine seasons. He played college football for the University of Illinois, and was recognized as an All-American. Drafted as the second overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, he played professionally for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys, and Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL.

Early Life

Hardy was born in Evansville, Indiana. He graduated from William Henry Harrison High School, where he received numerous awards and accolades as a high school football player. Hardy was an honor roll student, and also played basketball and ran track. Hardy’s basketball teammates in high school included Calbert Cheaney, an All-American at Indiana, and Walter McCarty, who played at the University of Kentucky and in the NBA, and Chris Lowery who played at Southern Illinois and is now an assistant coach at Kansas State University.

College

Hardy attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and played for the Illinois Fighting Illini football team from 1992 to 1995. Hardy was a business major, and was initiated as a member of Omega Psi Phifraternity. In his senior season of 1995, Hardy was named the winner of the Dick Butkus Award, given to the top linebacker in college football, and was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American.

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, who played in the middle, nor was prolific in quarterback sacks, as was Rice, who as a “rush linebacker” played on the line of scrimmage like a defensive end. Despite this, Hardy’s athletic ability stood out, and by his senior season, he was recognized as being among the very best linebackers in college football.

Hardy finished his collegiate career ranking ninth on the Illinois all-time list with 330 tackles, fourth in sacks with 18, and fourth in tackles for loss with 38.

NFL Career

Jacksonville Jaguars

Hardy was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the second overall selection in the 1996 NFL Draft, signing a six-year $14.8 million contract with a six million dollar signing bonus.Hardy was named to the NFL All-Rookie team in 1996. Hardy played six seasons for the Jaguars, which included four trips to the NFL playoffs.

In 1998, Hardy had a career high 112 tackles (87 solo).

Hardy led all AFC linebackers with 10.5 sacks in 1999, and was the second leading Jaguar in tackles with 98 (74 solo).

His play helped lead the Jaguars to a 14-win season, and Hardy was selected to the Pro Bowl as well as named to the AP All-Pro first team. In 2001, Hardy injured his knee in the ninth game of the season, at the time he had 98 tackles (second on the team) and 5 1/2 sacks (tied for third on the team). 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.

Dallas Cowboys

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.

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 (60), also had two quarterback sacks and three 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_Bengals

Hardy signed a four year, $14 million USD contract with the Cincinnati Bengals as an unrestricted free agent on March 6, 2003, to be the Bengals new middle linebacker, after playing outside linebacker with the Jaguars and Cowboys.Hardy played for the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2003 and 2004 NFL seasons.┬áThe Bengals terminated Hardy’s contract on May 3, 2005.

Career Numbers

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.

Life After Football

Kevin currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Terrie and their two sons.

 

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