NFL’s Tampa Bay Bucs call on Hardy (Football)

April 30, 2011

Daniel Hardy

Anchorage’s Daniel Hardy is on his way to the NFL.

The strapping 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end out of the University of Idaho was selected today by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft, ending one of the most anxious and emotional roller-coaster days of his life.

“It’s still pretty hard to belief,” Hardy told me 30 minutes after getting drafted.

“I’m in shock. I’m humbled. I’m thankful. I’m blessed. I’m in disbelief. All those emotions,” he added. “I was really holding it in until I talked with my dad. That’s when I broke down.”

Hardy, 23, watched the draft from Cincinnati with his agent, waiting for the phone to ring.

When it did it was the Bucs calling with the best news of his life: They were taking him with pick No. 238.

“I was just sitting there, not looking at the TV no more,” he said. “Then my phone rings and it’s an 813 area code, and I was like, ‘Who’s this?’

“It was a lady’s voice. She said, ‘Hi, I’m with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We are going to take you. Here’s head coach Raheem Morris.’

“Then I heard his voice … ‘How would you like to be a Buc?’ ”

Hardy about dropped the phone as a rush of emotion hit him like Warren Sapp.

“I couldn’t breathe for a while,” he said with a laugh. “I gave an emphatic ‘Yes, sir!’ and thanked him continuously. I told him I was going to give him everything and more than he expects. I talked to the tight ends coach after that. I spoke to him at the Combine and I remember him telling me that they liked me. It’s just so surreal.”

Hardy, of West High fame, starred at the University of Idaho, where he caught 80 passes for 1,364 yards and 6 touchdowns in 27 career games.

He aims to become just the 11th Alaskan to make it to the NFL, joining current stars reigning Super Bowl champion Daryn Colledge (Packers), Chris Kuper (Broncos) and Zack Bowman (Bears).

Other NFL players from The Last Frontier include Mark Schlereth, Reggie Tongue, Mao Tosi, Tom Neville, Rocky Klever, Travis Hall and Shane Bonham.

Hardy was a semifinalist for the Mackey Award, given to the country’s top tight end. He also played in the NFLPA College All-Star Game.

He was the third Idaho player taken in the draft along with safety Shiloh Keo and quarterback Nathan Enderle.

But it felt like forever before it happened.

“Going into it I told myself, ‘Expect to be a free agent,’ ” he said.

But that was difficult considering how most scouting services had him projected to go between the fifth and seventh rounds. And then he saw players drafted ahead of him that he believed he was just as good as, so that only added to the anxiety.

He kept telling himself that it was going to be OK, that a team could call.

“I truly believe I have the talent to play,” he said.

By the sixth round, he couldn’t watch the TV any more. By the seventh round, he finally called his dad. He consoled his son, reminding him to be positive.

Still, though, his phone kept silent.

Finally, it rang.

Hello, Tampa Bay.