Hardy Inches Closer to Receptions Record
East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy contributes day in and day out for ECU and is the embodiment of what it means to be a Pirate, according to coach Ruffin McNeill. To say that McNeill has high praise for his star wide receiver, or as he likes to call him “deuce”, is an understatement. “Justin has never had one negative affect on this team,” said McNeill after the Pirates’ 31-21 win over UConn. “He is an example of what we want here at ECU, he has never been late for a meeting or missed one. It’s an honor to be a part of what he does and his mind is always focused on making us better.” If there’s one thing Hardy has been good at during his tenure at ECU, it’s making the Pirates better. As a senior, he now holds every one of ECU’s receiving records. It’s a hard thing to comprehend considering the fact that Hardy was overlooked as a recruit coming out of West Craven High School and would end up walking on to the program where he would spend one year on the scout team. Now as one of the top wide receivers in college football, Hardy is on pace to pass former Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Browles for most catches by a receiver in NCAA history; inching closer to surpassing Browles when he caught a season-high 14 passes Thursday for 186 yards and a dazzling touchdown. The performance gave Hardy sole possession of the No. 2 spot on the all-time receptions list. With 327 career catches, he is now just 23 away from passing the mark of 349 set by Browles in 2011. When asked about reaching the feat, Hardy shrugged it off and claimed “routine plays” and “doing his job” is at the route of his succeess. Not once, before or after a performance, has Hardy bought into the hype surrounding the record. Instead he talks about winning an American Conference Championship with his team. Regardless of whether he wants to talk about it, a ton of people know how important a record like this is, including his teammates. Starting quarterback Shane Carden, who is also a close friend of Hardy’s, understand its significance. “It’s an important record,” said Carden. “Justin has done a lot of great things here (at ECU) and is a great leader for this team. He’s a great friend of mine and overall a great player.” Statistics are impressive and all, but stats alone don’t lead to success at the next level. Especially with a lot of the recent headlines, character often times is the deciding factor in whether an NFL team selects a player. According to his teammates and coaches, Hardy has no shortage of good character. “Justin has very strong character,” said Carden. “He’s been great off the field and does everything right that you would expect from a leader on the team. I’ve never heard him complain once about not getting the ball either.” Hardy has played with a “me against the world’ attitude” since not receiving the attention he should have from Division I programs out of high school. The trials and tribulations he faced have made him into the player he is today. One thing is for certain, Hardy is having no trouble getting the attention of NFL Scouts — seven NFL teams and the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes were at Dowdy-Ficklen Thursday night — and his head coach knows he’ll be an asset to any team interested. “If an NFL Scout doesn’t pick one of these kids they’re not going to be welcome here,” said McNeill when asked about Hardy. “We have good kids who play the game, are trained tough and are quick learners. They’ll help you win, the last four Super Bowl Champions had a Pirate on the team. “Justin is right there.”
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