Hardison embraces competition, challenges

When Consensus All-American Will Sutton announced his return for his senior season, it was a move that naturally created quite a bit of excitement for ASU's 2013 season. Highly coveted Sun Devil prospect and fellow defensive lineman, Marcus Hardison, welcomed that news and the chance to share the stage with Sutton rather than attend a program where he could possible enjoy more notoriety.

"Arizona State was the first school to offer me," said Hardison who had 25 offers during his recruiting process. "I knew nothing about them. I didn't even know that Terrell Suggs went there. But the crazy thing is that the first day I showed up at Dodge City I had a bunch of Arizona State gear on. I had a (ASU) backpack and jersey – I just like the colors so I wore them.

"So when they were the first ones to offer me I almost felt like this was meant to be."

As attractive as the Sun Devils were to him early on, the program was even more of an unknown to Hardison being just a few months under the reign of then first-year head coach Todd Graham. Yet, once the 2013 season unfolded and ASU's aggressive and productive defense was manifesting itself, this only proved as further validation to the strong sentiment the defensive linemen already had regarding ASU.

"There were two things that held me back from committing early," Hardison recalled. "One was if Coach Graham was going to stay and the other was if Will Sutton was going to stay. Once I knew both of them were staying I knew I was coming there.

"If Will left it was going to be a big role to fill, and don't get me wrong I was ready to do that. But I also knew that if he stayed it would be an even bigger opportunity for me. Coming in and already having Will and Carl (Bradford) there with the same system, I would be on the other side (of the defensive line) and teams wouldn't know a lot about me. So I would get a lot of one on one opportunities and I'm going to take that all day.

"I'm going to line up at field line defensive end and be the best defensive end in the nation. The coaches let this defensive line attack. We're always stunting, we are always moving and not just sitting on our blocks. We always have our eye on the quarterback."

Even with proven players such as Sutton and Bradford, Hardison stills feels that he's coming into the 2013 with great expectations which will only further motivate him to make immediate impact as a newcomer this season.

"I'm going to come in and do what I need to do so I can produce and be one of the best defensive linemen in the nation," Hardison said. "I know Will won the (Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year) award last year and I told him that he may not win it again this year because I will win it. I'm trying to get that award, I'm trying to get the Lombardi (award)…I'm trying to get all of them."

***

With the bevy of offers that followed the Sun Devils, the defensive lineman was exposed to numerous recruiting styles and pitches. The approach that the ASU coaches took was one that ultimately endeared itself to Hardison.

"It's hard to explain," Hardison remarked, "but even though they were recruiting me like all the other schools, they weren't just recruiting me. They were really trying to get to know me as a person.

"So before I came there for my visit, I already liked them but when I got there I really felt at home and liked their education too. I knew if I went there I would have an opportunity to start on a great team and I couldn't let that opportunity go by which is why I committed to them."

As mentioned, Hardison?'s deep affinity to ASU did nearly cause him to pledge to the maroon and gold once an offer was extended. But by the advice of one of his teammates, Hardison was told to stay put because other offers would follow a scenario that did ultimately materialize.

"At that point I wanted to commit on the spot to every school that offered me," Hardison admitted. "So in the beginning it (recruiting) was very hard. But once I got into my sophomore season it got even harder when you had even more big schools who were calling me up. They were really making it hard on me and I had to do a list of pros and cons for each of them."

***

Hardison was offered by several schools such as Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Florida State, Kansas State, Miami, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Washington and West Virginia.

While his recruitment attention was sky high during his junior college career, Hardison stated that he wasn't exactly an unknown during his playing days at Punta Gorda (Fla.) Charlotte High School.

"I did have a lot of colleges looking at me," Hardison said. "I had schools like Ohio State, and Florida recruiting me. But because I wasn't a qualifier I didn't get that many offers. I was very hungry to play at the D-I level and I knew I had to go to a JUCO and up my game to make that happen.

"It was disappointing to go JUCO and at one point (at the end of the high school year) I didn't know what I was going to do. But my high school coach just put in my head that I had to go to a JUCO so I started talking to those schools."

Hardison settled on Dodge City, Kan., one of the premier junior college programs nationwide located in the one of the most heralded junior college leagues – the Kansas Jayhawk Conference. The lineman knew that he was going to showcase his talents on a stage that would garner him a lot of exposure to some very attractive programs.

"This was my second chance at playing D-I," Hardison said, "so I knew I had to seize the moment. I couldn't let that opportunity go to waste. I worked very hard, but to be honest I didn't imagine myself ending up being ranked as a Top 10 JUCO player (in the nation). But I knew that my work ethic was going to make me a better player than I was in high school.

"I just did what I had to do to get my studies right and be one of the best (junior college) players in the nation."

And he did exactly that recording 46 tackles and three sacks as a freshman in 2011, and following up that campaign with 50 tackles and four sacks last season.

***

Hardison knows that despite the impressive junior college stats and entering his first year at ASU as one of the team's most heralded newcomers, he will have to fall back on the trait that has garnered him the enormous success he enjoyed thus far – work ethic.

"The transition (to ASU) at the beginning was hard," Hardison confessed. "Waking up everyday at 4:30 trying to get used to the time zone…it felt like the day was going slow because you started so early. But you can also get a million things done because the day is so long.

"I love Coach Griz and the weight (and conditioning) program. We do a lot of running, so I'm not able to gain any weight and I'm down to 280. But I also see a difference in my body because I'm really toning up. I also feel I'm getting a lot more explosive. I'm eating right and just getting in good shape."

Now that he has been in Tempe for a few weeks, Hardison certainly feels the high expectations that his teammates have placed on themselves as they prepare for the 2013 campaign.

"Being Rose Bowl champions is our goal," Hardison remarked. "That is why we work so hard and that is why we are going to reach it. We show great effort and back it up. We show great positive attitude in the weight room. We have fun, but always work hard. We are always focused and always pick each other up if we have to.

"Everytime I see Coach Graham he tells me what the plan is and what I need to do to get better, and I just listen so I know what to do."

***

Recruit Profile

Name

Marcus Hardison

Junior College

Dodge City, Kan.

Position

Defensive lineman

Height

6-4

Weight

280

Date of Birth

2/14/92

Birthplace

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Nickname

"Big Duke"

Favorite TV Show

"Martin"

Favorite Singer

"Drake"

Favorite Food

"Whatever mama cooks…my favorite is shrimp spaghetti."

Favorite Drink

"Apple Juice."

Favorite Athlete

"I have three: Ray Lewis, Julius Peppers and Carmelo Anthony."

Favorite Pro Team

"Baltimore Ravens and New York Knicks."

Person you most admire

"My big brother Jared. I always looked up to him."

First Football Memory

"First time I ever played was my freshman year in high school. I really wasn't supposed to play but our quarterback got hurt so they put me in. I ended up rushing for 200 yards – it was an option game all day. I also played (QB) my sophomore and junior year and I was throwing the ball more then because we played the spread. Senior year was the first time I switched over to the defensive line because one of the players got hurt. I ended up having a great (first) game so they kept me there."

One Thing most people don't know about me

"I'm very positive and outgoing guy. I'm not someone who gets frustrated and mad. I just like to have fun and stay happy."

Why did you choose ASU?

"In one word: opportunity."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"Every college athlete has the dream to go to the NFL. But in ten years I'm going to have my degree from ASU, hopefully playing in the league and having my own business like a training facility."


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