By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Hardy family was back home Saturday.
On the green grass of the USA Stadium Complex, NFL All-Pro Greg Hardy hosted the Fifth Annual I Go Hard-Y Camp. Controlling the stations for the grade-school aged football players and cheerleaders were Greg, his siblings and parents Lan and Greg Sr.
For the first time in the camp’s history the venue hosting it was not Aycock Park. The Hardy family picked Aycock originally because it was the birthplace of Greg Jr.’s football career playing for the SYS Trojans.
“USA does give us more space,” Lan said. “We are missing Aycock because that is where he played. That’s why we stayed there as long as we did. We have to expand with it growing. We attempted to do a 7-on-7 this year. But we didn’t have enough kids sign up.
“We’ll try to do it again next year,” she continued. “That’s why we wanted to be over here so we can run two fields. One with the younger boys and the other with the older boys.”
Lan said the Hardy Camp was created to give area children a chance to increase their skills in the game of football to have a chance to reach the pros.
Greg’s path to the NFL started in Millington in SYS. Then he was a standout at Briarcrest Christian School and Ole Miss.
Greg’s start in the NFL came with the Carolina Panthers where he earned an All-Pro spot. This past season he played for the Dallas Cowboys. He is currently a free agent.
Still in search for an NFL team, Greg didn’t weaver from hosting his camp back in his hometown.
“No matter what is going on in Greg’s life, Greg will not stop doing this,” Lan said. “This is what he likes to do. As you see, when he’s out here he’s always with the kids. He’s out here playing with them and teaching them.
“This gives him joy to be able to come back out there and see the kids and talk with them,” she continued. “Some of the kids have come out year after year. He’s gotten to know some of the kids personally through their repeatedly coming back year after year.”
This year’s Hardy Camp theme was “Defeat — Not an option.”
“The conversation came up before the camp,” Lan recalled. “What would be the theme? We wanted to do something with character. Actually Jacoby said, ‘Defeat is not the answer. Defeat is not an option. Defeat is nothing.’ So we went with, ‘Defeat is not an option.’ And we found the Maya Angelou quote to go along with that theme.”
The campers left with shirts featuring that quote and other goodies. Each child received an autograph from Greg. The Lan Hardy Foundation even rewarded an SYS scholarship for one player selected by the Trojan coaches in honor of the late Elijah Alexander.
“Growing up, we had other members help us,” Lan said .”We feel it takes a whole village to raise a child. This is a family effort. I had a brother come down from San Francisco to help this year. My brother and sister from St. Louis came down.
“It’s just important to the family to come down and help the kids understand there’s always going to be somebody out there with an helping hand to reach out when they need somebody,” she concluded.