Since the day Ole Miss Defensive End Greg Hardy, now a rising senior, has stepped on campus, he has been an outstanding football player, when healthy.
But if things continue on the same path they are currrently on for the "new" Greg, he may blow the roof off the definition of outstanding.
We may be talking in the realm of phenomenal in the next few months, aka Patrick Willis-esque.
Patrick has gone on to the NFL and remained prolific, which every Rebel fan knew would happen. Greg is of the same ilk, especially now that a different Hardy has emerged.
More on that later, but first, the big money question. How's the foot? You know, the Hardy appendage that was injured and surgically repaired last August, but had to be operated on again after the season.
"My foot is not 100 percent, but it's getting better every day. The staff in the training room is getting me a little bit better every day," said Hardy. "We are taking it very slowly because this was my second surgery and we are being careful not to rush things.
"I am able to do something every week that I couldn't do the week before. Different lateral moves or whatever. I'm able to do squats in the weight room now and I'm running in the pool in the training room. It's coming around."
This rehab period has required a lot of patience on Greg's part, but he's been up to the task.
"It's frustrating not being out there with your teammates having fun, but everyone has told me to take my time and everyone has been cool about it," he explained. "I have had to be very patient, but I understand this is the way it has to be for me to be my best during the season."
With the foot issue nearing a positive resolution, there are a couple of more sides to the Hardy story, not the least of which has been his willingness to take on a leadership role within the team.
"I really didn't plan anything, it just happened. I have always worked and played the game hard, but now, as a senior, I want to show everyone how it's done, how hard you have to work to succeed," he stated. "I want the younger DEs like Gerald Rivers and Craig Drummond to see what it takes and I want to help them get there.
"I want them to see me sell out. I want them to see me buy into the team concept and to learn that if you do, everything will work out for the best."
In the realm of the team concept, the seniors came up with the 2009 team slogan - unsatisfied. Greg explains their thinking.
"We accomplished some things last year that were good under the slogan 'One Heartbeat.' This year, we don't want to take that for granted and think it will come easily. We don't want our minds corrupted with any of those notions that we have arrived," Hardy said. "We want to be unsatisfied with everything we do as a reminder there is more out there for us to accomplish and we are not the best we can be yet."
For his part, Hardy also has a personal point to prove. To prove that point, he has packed on a lot of muscle to his 6-5 frame and is now tipping the scales at 275 pounds. He wants to play a little lighter than that, but maintain the strength he has gained in the process.
"There's been a stereotype of me as just a pass rusher who doesn't do well in the power game. I want to prove I can do both. I want to be a complete player and that is what I have worked on by adding some mass to my body," said Greg. "I want to be able to stop the run and get to the quarterback."
Greg does not believe the loss of All-American DT Peria Jerry will hinder the 2009 defense.
"You don't replace a great player like Peria, but with or without Peria, we have faith in our defensive front," he assessed. "We have depth and we have talent. We will be fine."
Hardy's checklist for 2009 is looking better and better.
(Almost) healthy? Check.
In the right frame of mind? Check.
Physical specimen? Double check.
Reb DE Greg Hardy is cleared for takeoff.
Quarterbacks and ballcarriers of the SEC beware.
You are in his sights.
Greg Hardy -
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