Round three Chargers Talk

In round three the San Diego Chargers had the benefit of picking twice in succession. They did not waste much time with their first pick, taking kicker Nate Kaeding out of Iowa. Minutes later, the team wrapped up Nick Hardwick, a center out of Purdue.<br><br> Buddy Nix summed up the thinking behind each pick, while Kaeding always thought he might be headed out west and Hardwick looks forward to the warm weather.

"This guy (Kaeding) is special," Assistant General Manager Buddy Nix said. "We think he's by far the best one (kicker) that's come out. I know he is since I've been doing this.

"The guy is a two-time captain. How many times have you seen a kicker be a captain of a football team in the Big-10 (conference)? He was captain of every team he played on in high school and all of them won a state championship. They guy has never done anything but win. He's a good athlete. He's a leader. He's a special kind of kid."

And for those who think that taking a kicker this high was a mistake. Nate Kaeding combats that:

"The teams that shared the conference title last year had maybe the two best kickers in the country," Kaeding said. "There's absolutely no coincidence about that. Teams that buy into the fact that every aspect of the game is important are the teams that are going to win ballgames.

"If you are going to look past a kicker, who on average is usually the highest scorer on your team, and you think that's not valuable enough, then you are crazy."

Kaeding went 20-of-21 on field goal kicks with a long of 55 as a senior.

Fans were getting anxious to see an offensive lineman and saw a bigger need for an offensive tackle. Marty Schottenheimer confirmed that offensive line was on the radar after picking up Igor Olshansky.

"There's any number of offensive lineman that we're still considering," Schottenheimer said before picking Hardwick. "We recognize on the offensive line we've got to get some people to step up. At some point in time, whether it be in this draft, we've certainly have to get some people there."

And the Chargers responded by picking Nick Hardwick out of Purdue.

As for Hardwick, the Chargers say they drafted him specifically to play center.

"We drafted him as a center," Nix confirmed. "He started six games last year at guard. He came to Purdue as a wrestler. He was a 245-pound wrestler. He's 6-4. He walked on at football, started six games as a guard. He's 298 now. He's a good athlete and he has the right temperament. He's a smart guy. The only thing you could say lacking in him is bulk, which he'll get bigger—all of them do."

After not playing high school football, Hardwick joined the Boilermakers as a walk on defensive tackle in 2001, became a starting offensive guard in 2002 and moved to center in 2003. As a senior, Hardwick was a co-captain, started all 13 games and was selected second team All-Big Ten. He graded out at better than 80 percent in every game, averaging 85 percent for the season, and recorded a team-high 45 pancake blocks.

Hardiwck's pick does not affect where Jason Ball will play.

"No. It just means that we need offensive linemen and it gives coach some more options," Nix said. "Center is what we drafted him as, where we works will be coach's (Schottenheimer) decision."

Hardwick was the second center taken in the draft, following Jake Grove of Virginia Tech in the second round.

" I am excited to be here. I hear it is the best city in the country. I have never been out this way, it is nice," Hardwick said. "The only time I talked to them was at the Senior Bowl in a roundtable interview. It was a total surprise – a good one."


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