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One-on-One with the Pirates
, August 13, 2010

By Ron Cherubini

Q&A with Justin Hardy

By Ron Cherubini
All rights reserved.

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Justin Hardy’s rise from walk-on to star inside wide receiver at East Carolina reads akin to a Hollywood script. Rocky Balboa’s self-belief and determination ain’t got jack on Hardy. A standout player at West Craven High School just down the road from the ECU campus, Hardy saw very little interest from colleges. It is a script played out over and over and over again at rural high schools all over the country. The really good player gets overlooked. Most of the time, the story ends like this: Same kid, a few years later, sitting at the bar with friends watching college football lamenting about how that should be him up there on that screen.

But Hardy went the other direction. He so believed in his ability to play that he walked in the door at ECU and took a position. Not content on being practice squad fodder, he was dead set on being a real game-changer. If Hardy is likened to Rocky, then that would make offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley a very young – but just as much the mentor – Mickey, Rocky’s trainer. The Mick saw it in Rocky right away and together they brought out the best of his talents. Riley, likewise, made it clear from the first day he assessed the receivers at ECU that Justin Hardy would be one of the best to come out of the program.

Insanity at the time considering that among the receivers in the coffers were Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis, both in the NFL now. But, in just over a year, Hardy not only found himself starting at the “Y” position, but also playing like a veteran despite being a redshirt freshman. Now, considered already to be among the best receivers in Conference USA, Hardy continues to climb, continues to hone his craft, continues to believe his opportunities are limitless. His saga is a true feel-good story that also provides a heck of a benefit to the team on the field.

Justin was kind enough to sit down for a chat with Bonesville to share his insights on the upcoming season.

Justin Hardy in action
(ECU SID photo)

One-on-One with Justin Hardy

Q: So, not long ago you were a guy walking on to this team. Today you are largely considered one of the fast-rising, elite receivers in C-USA. Talk about your journey to this point.

A: Every minute of it has meant a lot to me. I was a preferred walk-on, so I knew I was going to at least get a chance and Coach (Lincoln) Riley gave me that chance. I am so thankful for that chance and so when I made the team, it really made me work harder and harder. I put my trust in (the coaches) and they put trust in me and now a dream has come true for me.

Q: Coach Riley has always been a strong advocate for you and your practice efforts. Talk about what he has meant for your development.

A: I am thankful for the relationship I have with Coach Riley. We talk about things — you know football and other things. We have gotten together to talk — maybe grab something to eat together — during the off-season. It is a very important connection for me. He has always believed in my abilities and (the relationship) motivates me each day.

Q: When you assess your performance last season, what stands out to you and what have you been building on, working on? [Is there] one play you would like to have back from last season?

A: I have always practiced hard and learned that I need to always focus on practicing harder each day. The harder you practice, the easier it is to play games. I work at being as prepared as I can be for anything we do out here. One play at a time. One play… hmmm… it would definitely be that drop I had against Virginia Tech on the first drive. That one hurt and it is a catch I should have made.

Q: I know this is an unfair question, but with four guys battling for the QB role, does it make a difference to you who wins it? One word on each: Rio, Shane, Brad, Cody?

A: It really doesn’t matter to me. I don’t have a preference. All four of those guys could be a starter. For me, the competition at quarterback makes my practice better because those four guys are all on it and so I am getting great reps each time. [A word or phrase to describe each of the QBs:] Rio Johnson: He’s a great guy, a good passer and he understands this offense; Shane Carden: Another great passer and a more mobile type of quarterback and really knows the offense, too; Brad Wornick: He is a true veteran… shows good leadership and a good passer, too; Cody Keith: Young, great potential, another mobile passer.

Q: What player on this team do you most respect and why?

A: I have to give you two: Jeremy Grove and Damon Magazu. They both play hard every minute they are on the field. They let their play speak for itself. They are leaders and they are dependable. And they are both great guys off the field.

Q: Who is your candidate for break-out receiver this season?

A: Reese Wiggins is one for sure. He came on late last year and was like… man… he can take it all the way. J.J. (Justin Jones), he is going to be great, great this year. He is all healthy and I think he will have a huge year. Then there is Bodie (Andrew Bodenheimer). He is our leader, no question, and I also would say Dayon (Arrington). I think he is going to have a big year, too. All the guys on this corps could have a huge season.

Q: You have had a chance to work against some pretty good secondary guys and linebackers in pass coverage last season. How is our pass coverage looking from your perspective?

A: The secondary, honestly, looks better this season than last year. They are all selling out for the system. I know we lost three starters but I think we actually have a better secondary this year.

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Ron Cherubini Archives

08/13/2012 02:25 AM


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