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Possibility of Becoming a Steeler Excites Penn State CB, WPIAL Product Daequan Hardy

Photo by Matt Lynch, Nittany Sports Now: Daequan Hardy

Daequan Hardy has been a former Penn State defensive back for almost a month now.

The 5-foot-9, 178-pounder ended his five-year college career in the Peach Bowl against Ole Miss.

Now, Hardy plays on playing in the NFL.

Hardy flew under the radar at Penn State relative to some of his teammates in the secondary, namely Kalen King, Johnny Dixon and Joey Porter Jr. But he proved himself reliable as a nickel who’s also capable of playing on the outside. But what Penn State fans might remember Hardy most for is special teams. Before the team’s game against UMass this past October, Hardy had never return a punt at the college football level.

All he did in his debut was run two punts back for touchdowns.

That performance was a big reason he was named second-team All-Big Ten on special teams in addition to being third-team on defense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a need to fill at nickel cornerback or defensive back in general. Hardy is a Pittsburgh native and played at Penn Hills. He played on the same 7-on-7 team as Mike Tomlin’s son, Dino Tomlin, and is connected to Tomlin. He’s not even sure if Mike Tomlin remembers him, but he hopes so.

“Me, Joey (Porter Jr.), Dino, we all played on the same 7-on-7 team,” Hardy said. “So, I would always be around Mike Tomlin. I had a couple of conversations with him. I don’t know if he remembers me, but I sure hope so.”

Growing up, Hardy was predictably a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He watched his hometown team go to the playoffs and saw the emergence of another physical nickel cornerback, Mike Hilton. Playing for his hometown team would mean something different for Hardy than just any other football team, even if he wants to explore other cities around the NFL.

Hardy’s value shot up by returning punts, and he hopes to parlay that part of his game into more looks. But in reality, the aggressive kid in the slot is who he is known as now. Teams are craving more and more physical slot cornerbacks.  And Hardy thinks he could be similar to Hilton.

“Since I grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, one of the guys we had was Mike Hilton,” Hardy said. “So, I felt like, not mimicking, but watching him do his thing. I saw myself being in that same position when I get into that same position. I just tell teams that, honestly, you can play me anywhere on the field. Play me inside, outside, in the box, on the hash, I don’t care. I’ll show out.”

And so Hardy, with five career interceptions and a natural nose for coming downhill and making plays on the football, could fit the Steelers’ secondary like a glove. The Shrine Bowl is an excellent chance for him to shoot his draft stock up while facing some talented wide receivers.

Hardy wants to show the same things he did at Penn State — playmaking, physicality, and heart. If he does that, there is little reason that he should not be a solid mid-round draft pick.

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