Goodbye to a Good Guy…

Posted by on September 11th, 2014  •  0 Comments  • 

He was the last man standing, and now he’s gone.
 
Nick Hardwick, the perennial Pro Bowl center of the Chargers will miss the rest of the season with nerve damage in his neck.  This after limited play in preseason, an offseason of treatment for what was becoming a chronic condition, he lasts one quarter into the opening game of the season.
 
It is not only the end of the season for Philip Rivers’ trusted teammate, it probably is the end of his career.  Call it the NFL ‘wear and tear’ factor, getting beat on in the trenches for nearly a decade.  The bruised shoulder led to stinger issues, which has now led to a deep root nerve issue.
 
The history of Chargers football has been highlighted by guys who played that spot.  Donnie Macek was the Batman to Dan Fouts’ Robin.  Macek finally retired with hip surgery still to come.  Courtney Hall was all that too for quarterback Stan Humphries, before knee conditions ended his run after just eight years in the league.
 
Hardwick was tough as cement, smart, sensitive, hostile, funny and relentless.  He was exceptional as a player and as a person.
 
He was the last man standing from just a few ago.  While Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson drew all the accolades during the Marty Schottenheimer era and the early success of Norv Turner, Hardwick and his hooligan offensive line did yeoman work, un-noticed by the fans, but respected by those who really know the game.
 
And now they are all gone.
 
Left tackle Marcus McNeill retired because of a neck stenosis problem that he brought with him from Auburn.  Left guard Kris Dielman’s career ended on one snap and one plane ride, the severe concussion and the followup Grand Mal seizure on a team flight home.  Right tackle  Jeromey Clary is gone for the year and maybe forever with two hip surgeries.  Right guard Louis Vasquez, never hurt, always reliable, is now blocking for Denver Broncos icon Peyton Manning.
 
McNeill was a happy go lucky star.  Dielman was a grinder.  Clary was a selfmade man.  Vasquez was unsung and rock solid consistent.  Hardwick was the hammer and glue guy.
 
It was a tremendous group, maybe equal if not better than the Russ Washington, Billy Shields, Ed White, Macek group that protected Fouts during the Air Coryell run.
 
The proud Purdue Boilermaker, called line blocking adjustments, stood his ground against massive nose-tackles, protected Rivers at all times, spilled some blood, and showed up everyday, in pain-or-without pain, always ready to work.  Street tough-street smart-surly and sensitive.
 
That’s what Pro’s pros do in the NFL, and he was a good one.  Good guy, good person..
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