June 29, 2024

Justin Hardy’s malleable mindset leading to success with REDBLACKS

Through the first two games of the 2024 season, Justin Hardy has been one of the league’s most productive receivers, albeit rather quietly.

On just 14 receptions, the Washington, DC native has scrounged together 254 yards, placing him tops in the CFL in yards-per-game, and second in yards-per-reception. Only 19 times have the REDBLACKS looked Hardy’s way on the young season, two of which have been caught for a 30-plus yard gain, and one for a touchdown.

Fresh off a thousand-yard season in his first full CFL season a year ago, the 32-year-old headed into the offseason with the hopes of repeating his individual performance in 2024, and finding a way to help the team flip some of their close losses into wins.

At times, Hardy can fly under the radar, especially if you aren’t looking for him. He’s a quiet, subdued personality, often going about his business in an innocuous manner. He doesn’t often raise his voice, and keeps his answers short when asked questions, but it makes him no less of a leader for the REDBLACKS, according to Receivers Coach, Travis Moore.

“He always shows up early to work, and he takes care of his body,” he said. “He leads the young guys by example.”

“His peers are watching how hard he works. He’s not one to cry about things, or take plays off, and if you ask him to block, he’ll do it without saying anything. He’s a pro, and the younger guys that see that want to follow.”

In particular, Moore describes Hardy and fellow receiver Bralon Addison as “two peas in a pod”, with the two developing a close friendship going back to 2023.

“That’s my guy,” Addison said. “When I got here last year, he’s one of the guys that I immediately clicked with. I have known him since I was in college at the same time, and I followed him in the NFL. He was one of the first guys who welcomed me here, and our relationship has only grown since then.”

“If you see me, you see him. He’s the kind of guy where if a coach sees you’re always hanging around with him, it’s a good thing.”

Whether it has been an incredible NCAA career – one that earned him a place on the list of the 17 best walk-ons in college football history, which included names like Hunter Renfrow, Clay Matthews, and J.J. Watt – six years in the NFL, or a successful start to his CFL tenure, Hardy has always been productive.

As you would expect, that makes Hardy a confident guy, but it never crosses that fine line into cockiness, as his teammates have found out.

“Even though he’s done it at every level, he’s still coachable,” Addison said. “Other guys with his resume might be more arrogant. He still acts like a rookie. He’ll bounce ideas off of you, but you can ask him for anything, and he’ll help you. He’s also still learning.”

In the rare event that he does run the wrong route or drop a ball, there’s no one who feels worse about it than Hardy himself. He demands nothing but the best of himself, leaving little to no reason for anyone to confront him after the fact, because you know it won’t happen again.

All told, Hardy is popular in the locker room for a reason. He’s a dependable teammate, whether it’s in a key moment late in the game, or supporting someone when they are down.

“He’s a guy that you love to be around, and he’s a pro,” Addison said. “He cares about the team first, and makes sure that everyone is doing good. You love to have that kind of guy in the locker room. He’s consistent, and you know he’s going to show up every night, like he has in the first two weeks.”