By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Anyone paying attention to the headlines off-the-field regarding the NFL got familiar with names like Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.
Some of the best at their positions, that trio missed a majority of the 2014 season because of suspensions. Now the NFL and players like Hardy prepare for the 2015 campaign.
Hardy will have a fresh start this season with the Dallas Cowboys. But before he suits up for ‘America’s Team,’ Hardy made his annual June visit to his hometown of Millington for the 2015 I Go Hard-y Camp.
Surrounded by hundreds of children playing on the Aycock Park field that started his journey to becoming a 2013 All-Pro.
“It’s always good to be back home,” Hardy said. “I played on this field. So seeing all these kids here is crazy. I’m just thinking about it.”
While grooming himself this current offseason toward become a Cowboy, Hardy has set down with his parents Lan and Greg Sr., to discuss growing the I Go Hard-y Camp. In the past four years, the youth camp has served as a opportunity for children of all ages to learn basics and fundamentals under the watchful eye of expert volunteers.
Hardy has a vision to grow his annual event in Millington into one of the premiere 7-on-7 camps in America to showcase high school prospects.
“We still want the kids running around and learning the basics, fundamentals and mechanics,” Hardy said. “But we want to open it up more the high school kids with 7 on 7 skill work. We want to get the coaches involved. We want them to start working with them on their total package. Have them working on the things that big-time coaches look for. So when it’s time to get a scholarship, they’re good to go.”
Hardy was one of the highest ranking players in Tennessee while he lettered in three sports at Briarcrest Christian School. Although he shined in track and basketball, football brought Ole Miss recruiters to Hardy’s doorstep.
Hardy had four standout seasons with the Rebels with 38.5 career tackles for loss and 26.5 sacks, including a best in the SEC 10 sacks in 2007. On June 17, 2010 Hardy signed a contract with the Carolina Panthers.
Before leaving the Panthers, Hardy racked up 34 career sacks and forced 7 fumbles. The Millington native started to make his name known across the league in 2012 with 11 tackles of the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. In 2013 Hardy had a Carolina record 15 sacks earning a trip to the Pro Bowl and the 53rd spot for the NFL Top 100 Players for that season.
Because of domestic abuse charges last year, Hardy was suspended most of 2014. The case was dismissed in February. On March 18, 2015, Hardy signed a one-year, $11.3 million contract with Dallas.
Hardy’s 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy was reduced July 10 to four games. Shortly after the NFL handed down the punishment, the Dallas Cowboys defensive end formally filed an appeal through the NFLPA. Hardy’s appeal through the NFLPA was heard May 28 and was presided over by arbitrator Harold Henderson, who ended up reducing the suspension 6 games for the new Dallas lineman.
Last season the Cowboys were a couple of plays away from playing the the NFC Championship Game. Hardy said Dallas is in a great spot to make his dream of reaching a Super Bowl come true.
“It’s hard work to be done as far as getting the team into it like I did in Carolina,” Hardy said. “I’m toning up and getting all the bugs out. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from all the fans down there.
“We need the same big plays,” he concluded. “We had a lot of those but I can bring a lot more and help us as a team. I can bring some big plays during crunch time the next time.”