Former No. 2 Pick Kevin Hardy Named To College Football HOF Ballot
Over the years, off-the-field accolades have been scarce for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the club’s players. A result of little on-the-field success makes it hard to focus on individual performances. But the talent is still there, waiting to be awarded.
A few former Jaguars—including one high draft pick—are receiving some of that deserved recognition. Former linebackers Kevin Hardy and Paul Posluszny have been named to the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame, 2022 class.
Hardy was an Illinois LB, 1995 consensus First Team All-American and Butkus Award winner, two-time First Team All-Big Ten selection who helped Illini to two bowl berths and a team captain who started 45 games (second all-time among Illini LBs) and ranks fourth all-time at Illinois in sacks (18) and TFL (38).
Following his storied college career, Hardy had a feeling he’d be a high draft pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. He was told to expect even Top 5. The Jaguars—in only their second draft in franchise history—had the second pick in said draft. But Hardy wasn’t expecting to go to Jacksonville.
“The top-5 teams that year were the Jets, Jacksonville, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore, and New York Giants. And I had taken visits to all five of those teams except Jacksonville," Hardy revealed to Jaguar Report back in April.
Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson headlined one of the best receiver classes of all time that year, and was predicted to go first overall, which he did.
"And so we knew going into it that we weren't going to be 1, and we didn’t think 2 because you know, we hadn't really spoken much to Jacksonville," Hardy said. "So when we did get the call and the pick was made, it was a bit of a surprise, and obviously it was a welcome surprise.
"And obviously for me as an individual it was huge because the consensus talk was that I was going to be a top-5 draft choice. And so as you can imagine, that was really exciting. And when draft day hit, Jacksonville chose me second, so I didn’t have to wait long and, you know, it was just an exciting moment for me and my family.
“Since I have retired. I have made my home in Jacksonville. So I am a part of this community every single day and I am always obviously running into people, you know, huge Jaguars fans,” said Hardy.
Hardy went on to set franchise records during his playing time, as well as lead AFC linebackers in sacks in 1999. Jacksonville's all-time leader in playoff tackles, Hardy is fifth in team history in tackles with 789. He also recorded more than 30 tackles for loss, 28.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and five interceptions, making him one of the most productive and versatile defenders in team history.
Now, he has the potential to add Hall of Famer to his resume, albeit as a college player. Still the understanding and experience that comes with the recognition can be invaluable to those who come behind Hardy at both Jacksonville and Illinois. Hardy announced the Jaguars second round draft pick in 2019, and knows the connection between a veteran and a rookie can make all the difference for the latter.
“I know if I had been in the shoes and being able to meet and connect with some legends; I mean, you got some guys that are Hall of Famers, you got some guys that are Pro Bowlers, you got guys that have walked the shoes where you hope to walk," Hardy said. "So just being a part of that is really special and is something I am really looking forward to again and I jumped at the opportunity when I was asked to do it.”
Posluszny wasn’t drafted by the Jaguars, but signed as a free agent after four years with the Buffalo Bills. He spent the remainder of his career in Jacksonville, being named a Pro-Bowler in 2013.
Voters and other College Football Hall of Fame members will vote on the candidates between now and June 25. Winners will be announced in early 2022.