Hardy Awaits His Moment in the NFL Draft

Former ECU wide receiver Justin Hardy is expected to become the first Pirate selected in the NFL Draft since 2011 this weekend.

After no Pirates were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, former East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy is hopeful that his moment will arrive on Friday night.

The NCAA FBS’s career receptions leader was ranked 12th among the wide receivers of this year’s class, according to Scout.com’s final pre-draft rankings. Six of the list's top-nine receivers were picked on Thursday.

Since his pro day last month, Hardy has worked out privately for the Panthers, Broncos and Texans. Inside ECU Sports has also learned that the Buccaneers, Cowboys, Bengals, Jets and Giants have contacted him, expressing interest.

Hardy’s position coach at ECU, Donnie Kirkpatrick, said he has fielded dozens of phone calls from NFL teams to ask about the former walk-on quarterback from Vanceboro, N.C.

“Of all the teams that I have talked to, they just have all said, ‘We would love to have him,’” Kirkpatrick said in a phone interview. “I think they do their homework. They talk to the academic people, they talk to the trainers and I know there were several teams calling Chris Sutton, who works with (Greenville) police and security.

“You know they are getting pretty serious when they are doing that and all those things make me feel good because I know the more people that ask about him, the better he’s going to look.”

The Pirates’ last draft pick was current Giants receiver Dwayne Harris in 2011. Harris, who was a senior at ECU when Hardy was spending his true freshman season on the scout team, waited until the sixth round (176th overall) before the Cowboys selected him.

Kirkpatrick, entering his 12th season at ECU, was the only coach retained from Skip Holtz’s staff when Ruffin McNeill returned to him alma mater in 2010. If Hardy is selected this weekend, he will become the third receiver drafted — joining Harris and Audrae Allison (fifth round, 146th overall) — under Kirkpatrick’s tutelage.

However, unlike the other two members of that club, Kirkpatrick says Hardy is different breed.

“He’s a no doubter,” said Kirkpatrick. “He’s the guy who is going to end up playing the most years, no matter what round he goes in. The reason he is not going to get drafted in the first round is simply that it’s a measurement game.”

Hardy, who was listed at six feet tall last season, measured in at 5-foot-10 at the NFL Scouting Combine in February — Hardy is one of just four receivers in the top 20 of Scout.com’s receiver rankings that is listed under six-feet tall — and his 4.56 40-yard dash was the slowest time clocked among the top 13 receivers on the list.

As for his strengths, Hardy is being viewed as one of the best route runners and pure pass-catchers in this year’s draft. If his FBS record 387 receptions weren’t enough of an indication of this, Hardy’s hands were measured at 10 inches, which was tied for the fourth largest among all the receivers at the combine.

But being overlooked is just part of Hardy's DNA at this point. Just ask his coach at West Craven High School, Kevin Yost, who fought and clawed just to earn Hardy preferred walk-on status at ECU.

“He’s got to prove himself again, just like he did in college,” said Yost, who is now the coach at Pamlico County High School. Walter Wilson is the highest-drafted receiver in ECU history with his third round selection (67th overall) in 1990.

The NFL Draft will resume at 7 p.m. on Friday night for the second and third rounds. The final four rounds will be completed on Saturday.


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