Production, Leadership Helped Pave Hardison’s NFL Path

Marcus Hardison had to wait his turn.

Now he’s prepared to capitalize on the opportunity.

The 6’3, 307-pound former Arizona State defensive end caught the attention scouts and personnel at the Senior Bowl which carried over into the NFL Combine last month in Indianapolis. 

Much of his 2014 success can be attributed to head coach Todd Graham who challenged the junior college transfer to step into a leadership role after the losses of Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Gannon Conway and others.

“He was talking to me towards the end of the [2013] season,” Hardison told at the Combine. “He put me in a couple leadership classes to learn.”

Clearly the Florida native was a quick learner leading ASU in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (15). Some believe he was the Sun Devils’ best defensive player over the final two months of the season routinely getting in the backfield using his unmatched speed off the edge. He could be taken as high as the third round by some projections.

He picked up some tips watching one of the NFL greats.

“I watched a lot of Warren Sapp,” he said. “He had a good first step. Our [coaches] told us to watch him. I started watching him a lot.”

Hardison and 20 of his former teammates will be under the microscope again at ASU’s Pro Day this Friday in Tempe. After the bright lights and media blitz at Lucas Oil Stadium don’t expect him to be phased by the pressure.

He and his game have come too far over the last two years.

“Once I got to my senior year things just started rolling,” he softly explained. “I went on the field [not] thinking, just reacting to things. I was just attacking.”

Hardison said NFL coaches and scouts have been pleased with his speed. He reportedly ran a 4.7 40-yard dash while at ASU. Still, he’s aware he needs to get stronger, particularly in his lower body and improve his technique. His size, skill set has been compared Dallas Cowboys’ defensive tackle Henry Melton.

Not bad for a guy who had just five tackles his junior year.

The good news for whoever drafts him this spring is it appears his best football is still ahead of him.