By Thomas Sellers Jr.
It seemed like many years ago Millington native Greg Hardy was among the best in the National Football League.
In 2014, the Briarcrest and Ole Miss product was selected the No. 53 player by his peers in the Top 100 NFL Players list. Fast forward to 2016, Hardy is searching for a team.
Despite a solid 2015 season with the Dallas Cowboys with 6 sacks, moving his career total to 40 in six seasons, Hardy wasn’t on any of the 32 rosters when he came home for the 2016 I Go Hard-Y Camp at USA Stadium.
Hardy put all those concerns and the negative headlines from recent months on the back burner for a day to spend time with his family, old friends and hundreds of area children.
“This is what it’s all about in sports, having a family,” Hardy said. “Having people come together striving to get better. We always have a good turnout and a lot of kids. My favorite part is being around people who want to be here. The kids want to learn and they enjoy genuinely being out there.”
Through that Saturday Hardy was building up a sweat conducting drills, coaching his 7-on-7 team and even taking on a dance challenge from the cheerleaders.
Hardy said the City of Millington provided a great facility so the children could enjoy a good atmosphere to learn more about cheerleading and football.
At the end of the camp, Hardy signed autographs for each child and posed for pictures including old rivals from the Whitehaven SYS Raiders.
Hardy shared stories with the children and parents about his start at Aycock Park for the Millington SYS Trojans. Keeping that tradition alive, Hardy rewards a scholarship to an SYS Trojan paying for all their fees and equipment with the Elijah Alexander Memorial Award.
“I’m always going to come back and give back,” he noted. “That’s what it took for me to make it and strive and conquer what I’ve been able to conquer. My family, my Mom, the city of Millington, the police department came behind me and rallied. They’ve been there for me supporting me.
“It all started in SYS. My sister cheered, my Mom coached the cheerleaders and my Dad coached me. That’s how we did, as a family,” Hardy continued. “I just feel like as a community that’s how it should be spread out Millington as a city then to Memphis and so forth. We can do that through the kids cheerleading, doing gymnastics. We have to recognize and come together through common goals. I want to change mentality.”
Hardy is working on his mind, body and soul during this offseason. His off-the-field issues have been documented throughout the press. And Hardy has received some criticism for some of his behavior around football last season.
The NFL All-Pro defensive lineman said despite being team-less in early June, the extra time turned out to be a blessing.
“(The camp) meant a lot to me,” Hardy said. “I don’t always have time. I don’t always have time to hang out with my family, my children and the kids who are around. This year has been hard because I’ve had a little bit of a delay getting on a team. I really wanted to get back and see the kids. Go visit schools and come out there today and give a little bit more time that I used to.
“So that people know that I’m around,” he concluded. “It’s not just about ball. There is life after everything. No one thing evolves around another one thing. It’s about the community and evaluation. It’s about the circle and I’m making sure I’m putting back into that circle.”