ATHENS — Say this for the Georgia Bulldogs: They didn’t brood long over losing Demetris Robertson to Cal. Like, for a minute, it seemed.
Not long after the indecisive 5-star wide receiver from Savannah came to Atlanta to reveal he would play college football 3,000 miles away, Georgia got a commitment from Trey Blount, a 2017 wide receiver from Atlanta. And to further salve the wound of Robertson’s get-away, 2016 signee Mecole Hardman stepped up and offered his services as a wideout to coach Kirby Smart via Twitter:
@KirbySmartUGA I heard you might need some more fire power at WR? Just call my name and I'll give you more than you need ✊?
— Mecole Hardman Jr. (@iiAm_Mesho) May 1, 2016
Hardman can definitely motor. He recently took firsts in the Region 8-AAA track meet in the 100 meters, 4×100, 4-x400, long jump and triple jump.
Hardman is in the habit of offering his multi-purposeful services to Bulldogs, with whom he signed in February. He was, after all, rated the No. 1 “athlete” in the nation by 247Sports. Last month, he told DawgNation.com he’d be more than willing to help Georgia alleviate its depth concerns at tailback by taking some reps there if needed when he gets to town in June. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound speedster signed with the Bulldogs as a cornerback and kick returner. But he starred at Elbert County High as a quarterback and played in the U.S. Army All-American game as a wide receiver.
I visited with Hardman in Elberton in April for the Next Generation series that began last week and I asked him then about the prospect of playing both ways for Georgia. He actually played very little defense in high school but is expected to play cornerback in college. That’s because he competed so well at elite camps on that side of the ball.
You get a glimpse of Hardman’s competitive nature when you listen to his answer about whether he wants to play DB in college.
“No doubt. I want to be on an island by myself,” he said. “I feel like every receiver that comes up to the line, he’s not faster than me. I’m just speaking about my mindset; I’m not trying to be cocky. But when you’re on the field, like Deion Sanders said, ‘They don’t pay nobody to be humble.’ I feel like on the field, I’m that guy. If you’re a receiver and you come out there and you’re supposed to be a first-round draft pick or whatever, one of the top receivers, in my mindset you’re nothing to me. You’ve got to show me what you’re about. The hype can be so much, but until you do it on the field, I ain’t buying it. You put it in front of me and show me what you can do. That’s what you have to do to be a corner if you want to be like Deion Sanders or Champ Bailey or Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman or Patrick Peterson. They’d probably say the same thing that I’m saying. I feel like no receiver is going to beat me. I don’t think they’re going to be faster than me off the line, and that’s just the mindset you have to have as a corner.”
Hardman reportedly won a lot of one-on-one battles with high-profile receivers during camps and all-star practices. The thing is, he also won most of those battles playing offense. That’s why coaches switched him to receiver a few days before the Army Game in San Antonio.
Hardman said his ability to excel on either side of the ball is all about the mindset.
“They say you play the game 80 percent up (above the shoulders), 20 percent down. I believe that so much,” Hardman told DawgNation. “It’s all a mental thing. It’s like Richard Sherman said: ‘If I can get in your head before you run a route, I win.’ That’s a big thing in playing DB. But it’s the same thing when I’m at receiver. I don’t think you can guard me. I don’t think you’re faster than me. I just don’t think you can move like I can move. That’s the same thing you hear from Calvin Johnson or Hines Ward or Jerry Rice, they all had that mindset. I feel like that’s what separates the greats from the goods to the average: mindset.”
Fittingly, Hardman will wear the No. 4 at Georgia. It’s the number he wore in high school. It’s also the jersey number that the Bulldogs’ last great two-way player wore — Champ Bailey.
Hardman said he’s aware Bailey wore it, but it’s not why he chose it. And he doesn’t really care for the comparisons.
“No, actually Devin Hester was my favorite player. He wore No. 4 at Miami. I grew up loving watching him return kicks and do what he does,” Hardman said. “I’ve been knowing that Champ wore it; my dad (Mecole Sr.) talks about Champ all the time. A lot of people started comparing me to him and said I could follow in his footsteps. But, you know, that’s not my goal, or intended goal, to go in and be like Champ Bailey. I know that Champ Bailey is one of a kind, 18 seasons in the NFL, All-American player both ways on offense and defense. You know, that’s not something you can try to model your game after. That’s somebody you can’t just follow in his footsteps because that’s a lot of footsteps to follow.
“So I don’t want to try to put that pressure on me. I just want to go be Mecole Hardman and make a name for myself. Hopefully one day people will be like, ‘I wanna do what Mecole Hardman did on the football field.’ That’s what it’s all about.”
As for Robertson, Hardman and he actually became pretty good friends during the extended recruiting process. Hardman wanted him to come to Georgia, but was careful not to pressure him into doing so.
“Oh, yeah, that’s my boy, man,” Hardman said. “But I told Demetris, every time I talked to him, ‘Make the decision for yourself, don’t let anybody swing your decision of where you want to go because, at the end of the day, you’ve got to play four years at that school. You don’t want to go to a school where everybody tells you to go and then you regret it, because you’re doing this four years.’ So I told him to make the decision on his own.”