After Missing Senior Season, Hardin's Cooking

Sparked by a tremendous workout at his pro day, Oregon State's Brandon Hardin took 12 predraft visits, including one to Green Bay last week. Packer Report talked exclusively to the cornerback/safety in the latest example of why we have been the go-to place for the draft.

For Brandon Hardin, it was time to relax and make dinner.

"I love cooking," Hardin said on Friday evening. "I've got some chicken and vegetables on the grill."

Hardin had earned some downtime, since he'd basically been living out of his suitcase for the past few weeks. Hardin, who missed his senior season at Oregon State because of a shoulder injury and was not invited to the Scouting Combine, went on 12 predraft visits — including one to Green Bay on April 13, he said.

"It was awesome," Hardin said. "Because it was a Friday, it was a great way to end the week. I got to tour the facilities and see what Green Bay has to offer."

After starting all 12 games at cornerback as a junior, Hardin had high hopes for his senior season. Instead, an injury sustained during fall camp required surgery. Since he'd already had a redshirt season, he assumed — correctly, it turns out — that the NCAA wouldn't give him a medical redshirt and sixth year of eligibility.

It was crushing news.

"It was a test of my character," Hardin said. "I definitely learned a lot about myself and learned a lot about my determination and my ability to keep a positive mind-set. That was difficult. If you could imagine, it's your senior season and it's your year to shine. When that gets taken away from you in one play, it was heartbreaking, to say the least.

"When the injury happened, I knew it'd be challenging. I knew I'd have to prove to a team that i'm healthy enough to play, that I haven't totally fallen off the football track."

Needing just one class to earn his degree in business administration, Hardin threw himself full throttle into rehab to get ready for the two biggest events of his football life: the East-West Shrine Game and Oregon State's pro day.

He was slated to play cornerback and some safety at the East-West game, but when one of the safeties went down, Hardin spent the week at safety and acquitted himself nicely. That set the stage for the March 16 workout in front of scouts.

"I knew that I needed to spark some interest by performing well at my pro day," Hardin said.

He did just that. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds, with a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump and 24 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

That got Hardin, who picked off one pass in 15 career starts and 38 games, firmly back onto teams' draft boards and jump-started his tour of the country.

With the agility to play cornerback and the size to play safety, many teams — including the Packers, Hardin said — would use him in a hybrid role. Other teams see him as a cornerback, with a move to safety coming as a last resort.

"They know I played corner in college in a pretty darned good conference, the Pac-10," Hardin said of being a cornerback-safety combo. "They definitely see me as being versatile in that I did play corner but I'm the size of a safety. I would be covering tight ends or playing (corner) in the nickel package or just playing all-out safety."

One good thing came from the injury, and it had nothing to do with 40-yard times.

"I tried to help our corners because I was the only senior in the corner group," Hardin said. "I took it upon myself to help my coach try to get (his sophomore replacement) ready for the starting role. I tried to coach him and tell him things like, ‘If I was out there, this is what I would be doing' and ‘This is what I'm seeing.' It helped me keep my mind on football."

In a week, the native of Honolulu will have to get on an airplane one more time. Hardin figures to be selected sometime early in Day 3, though it wouldn't be a shock if he goes in the third round. Regardless of the future of Nick Collins, the Packers need to upgrade their safety group, and Hardin clearly is on their radar. He was a big-time special teams player, with a team-high 11 tackles as a sophomore and a co-leading 12 tackles as a junior. He recovered an onside kick in the East-West game.

"It'll be the greatest feeling in the world and the best thing to happen to me," Hardin said of being drafted. "What it means is it's another opportunity to play football. That's all I've wanted since I hurt my shoulder. I just wanted another opportunity to play football."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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