JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nobody has been drafted higher in the history of the Jaguars than Kevin Hardy. That will all change on Thursday. But on Friday, Hardy will have the task of announcing the Jaguars’ second-round picks.
Hardy had the same duty in 2019 when the Jaguars used their second-round pick on Florida right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Since he’s seen the behind-the-scenes of the draft, I asked him how the draft now compares to 1996 when the Jaguars made him the second overall pick.
“This thing has gotten so big,” Hardy said. “The NFL has done such a great job of just marketing its brand, and it’s gotten so huge. And there’s so much hype around it. I remember when I was getting drafted, it was in New York and Madison Square Garden, and they brought in the guys and you kind of get wined and dined the night before, and you do a lot of different things, get introduced to the NFL, the brand, you see the magnitude. You know that it is, but nowadays, I remember, like, when I went to Nashville, I was in awe of everything that was built around it. Because the fans come out. Every team has a little bit of a fan base at the draft. And it’s just like a huge Super Bowl effect with every team.”
It was an easy decision for Hardy to accept the invitation to announce the pick this year. There are some differences compared to when he stood at the podium in 2019.
“They want to keep the legends, as they call them, involved with the organization,” Hardy said. “And probably some of the higher draft picks, you know, in the past years, I think Boselli has done it. Brunell, Freddy T. “I know there were a couple of other guys that were open to doing it. But the unique thing about this year was you had to have been vaccinated. And, you know, and I had been vaccinated. It’s a fun thing. You get the chance to catch up with some other guys. I’m looking forward to it.”
And what if hardy wants to have some fun in Cleveland? He has thought about it. Jokingly. Right?
“How about if I did that? I went up there and I said, ‘With the 33rd pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars select Kevin Hardy,” Hardy joked.
Hardy also shared an interesting story about the time leading up to his draft in 1996.
“I remember like It was yesterday,” Hardy said. “The Jets with the first pick. (Then) Jacksonville, Arizona, Baltimore and the New York Giants. And you know, leading up to the draft, the teams bring in some of the top players, some of the players that they potentially might be drafting. They would bring guys to almost like taking an official visit, you know, like, like, like to a team. And back when I was getting drafted, I remember, I had gone to see that the Giants at the time, Dan Reeves was the head coach and the late George Young was the GM. Those guys told me that they didn’t think I was gonna be there at five. But if I was they guaranteed me that they were going to draft me. So you know, that was a really good feeling, you know, walking out here thinking, Hey, I’m probably gonna be a top five draft choice.
“And then you fast forward that to when I get to New York. All, you know, there was so much talk. I mean, I actually thought that I was gonna be going for to Baltimore because I knew, there was talk about the Jets taking Keyshawn Johnson. I did not have a read on Jacksonville whatsoever. That was the only team in the top five that I didn’t take a visit to. So you know, they played their cards close to the vest. But it was an exciting time, though.
“The night before the draft, we got a call from Pat Kirwan, who was I think the GM for the Jets at that time. And he told us that they had decided to take Keyshawn Johnson. So we knew he was going to be number one. And then the focus went to Jacksonville, but we didn’t get a read. We didn’t know. But like I said, I knew I was gonna be a top five. I just didn’t know where.”