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Mecole Hardman gives Georgia football another rookie Super Bowl champion
Zach Evans took notice of what Sony Michel did in Super Bowl LIII. At the Under Armour All-American Game, the 5-star running back mentioned how the school he was planning to sign with at the time had a rookie score a touchdown in the New England Patriots’ 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
Michel was the only player to score a touchdown in win for either side. He proved to play a key role for a team that won the Super Bowl in his first NFL season. His time at Georgia very much prepared him for the NFL and the rigors that come with playing at that level.
Recruits know when players from a specific school shine in the NFL. It’s why LSU always seems to land a 5-star defensive back, why 5-star defensive ends go to Ohio State, and elite wide receiver prospects want to sign with Clemson. Georgia has seen that same benefit with the running back position.
High school kids recognize not only which programs put guys into the NFL, but how those players also succeed once they get there.
That’s why Mecole Hardman winning the Super Bowl as a rookie after being a huge part of the Chiefs special teams and offense matters not just the day after the Chiefs’ 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers. But it can matter and help going forward.
Shortly after the win, a number of Georgia coaches took to Twitter to congratulate Hardman on his success. Doing this publicly, as opposed to just a text, allows possible recruits to see the connection between a Super Bowl-winning rookie and the Georgia football program.
— Glenn Schumann (@CoachSchuUGA) February 3, 2020
— Dan Lanning (@CoachDanLanning) February 2, 2020
— Cortez Hankton Jr. (@Coach_Hankton) February 2, 2020
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) February 3, 2020
The Chiefs saw a valuable player in Hardman after he declared early for the 2019 NFL Draft. Kansas City ended up trading up in the draft to secure Hardman. As a receiver, he caught 26 passes for 583 yards and six touchdowns. His speed proved to be a perfect weapon when paired with Patrick Mahomes’ arm strength.
But Hardman’s biggest impact this year came as a special teams player. He served as the team’s kick and punt returner. And while he didn’t have his best performance in the Super Bowl — one catch for -2 yards and three kickoff returns for 58 yards — his kick return against Houston kick-started a 24-point comeback in the divisional round.
The Georgia offense badly needed some of Hardman’s speed this season, as just the threat of him on the field could’ve helped opened things up for all parties involved.
But Georgia was able to land a player with similar skills in the 2020 recruiting cycle, as the Bulldogs signed 4-star wide receiver Arian Smith. The Lakeland, Fla., product might be the fastest high school player in the country, as he won the fastest man competition at the Under Armour All-American Game.
In Smith’s recruiting process, Kirby Smart and the Georgia coaching staff mentioned to Smith that he could go on to fill the same role Hardman did.
“Just that they needed a fast guy,” Smith told DawgNation. “I’d seen the previous year, they had more success last year than this year. They were missing Mecole Hardman. I figured I can take his spot and turn the offense around.”
Smith is the No. 9 wide receiver in the country and the No. 58 overall prospect. He’s one of five wide receiver signees in this class, one that Georgia desperately needs to get early production out of given the struggles last season.
Putting players in the NFL is all part of the process of running an elite college football program. You recruit elite players, they have successful college careers, they go to the NFL, recruits see the player having success in the NFL, elite recruit then signs with your program. It’s the circle of life, college football remix.
Georgia obviously struggled to replace Hardman. Perhaps this should’ve been expected given he came to Georgia as a 5-star athlete, played defensive back as a freshman, capped his sophomore season with a huge second-half touchdown in the national title game and was the most explosive playmaker a season ago. That’s a rather remarkable college career.
But now with Hardman being a Super Bowl champion, perhaps more recruits notice how Georgia and Smart helped shape his career. Maybe they see J.R. Reed making a big interception or D’Andre Swift ripping off a long touchdown run in the fourth quarter in next year’s Super Bowl.
What guys like Hardman and Michel do for Georgia while in Athens is still obviously huge for the overall health of the program. But making strong contributions on winning teams as rookies also seems to be doing quite a bit for the well being of the Georgia football program.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- Former Georgia star Mecole Hardman arrives at Super Bowl in flight suit
- BREAKING: Homegrown Georgia WR Ladd McConkey has made his college decision
- The George Pickens plan: No. 1 key to Georgia football championship hopes
- Quincy Carter’s inspirational battle with drugs and alcohol: ‘I was sick and tired of being sick and tired’
- Quintin Somerville: Nation’s No. 75 overall junior is on a big first trip to UGA
- Georgia football winners and losers for the month of January
Dawgs on Twitter
— Ladd McConkey (@laddmcconkey02) February 2, 2020
— Kelee Ringo (@KeleeRingo) February 1, 2020
Congrats to our #SuperBowl Champs! 🙌
Morris Claiborne – LSU@dustincolquitt2 – Tennessee@_sleepp – S. Carolina @MecoleHardman4 – Georgia@stonecoldjones_ – Miss. St.@Mathieu_Era – LSU@reggieragland – Alabama@Demarcus – Florida@GGPR_BANGER5 – Texas A&M#ItJustMeansMore
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) February 3, 2020
— LLCOOLJ. (@llcoolj) February 3, 2020
Good Dawg of the Day
I’m on the edge of my seat! pic.twitter.com/tn2MbABmZe
— Gillian OShaughnessy (@GillOshaughness) January 31, 2020