Jacksonville Jaguars: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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Kevin Hardy, Jacksonville Jaguars
Running back Tim Lester of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs into the arms of linebacker Kevin Hardy #51 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the Steelers 24-9 loss to the Jaguars at Jacksonville Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. /

LB. (1996-01). Kevin Hardy. 17. player. 52.

  • 1x First-Team All-Pro (1999)
  • 1x Pro Bowl (1999)
  • 4x team leader in tackles (1996, 1998-00)
  • 401 tackles, 105 assists, 28.5 quarterback sacks in Jaguars career

Back in the 1990s, the Illinois Fighting Illini had an outstanding defense under the tutelage of head coach Lou Tepper. Illinois was absolutely ferocious in the front-seven. While defensive end Simeon Rice would end up being the biggest name to come out of that Illinois program, his front-seven teammate Kevin Hardy was nearly as good.

Both Hardy and Rice were taken No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in the 1996 NFL Draft. They went after USC Trojans wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, but ahead of Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle Jonathan Ogden of the Baltimore Ravens at No. 4. Regardless, both Hardy and Rice would end up being first-team All-Pros before their NFL careers came to a close.

Jacksonville was perpetually in the AFC playoffs during Hardy’s six years with the team. The Jaguars went to AFC Championship Games in both 1996 and 1999. While Hardy was a rookie in 1996, his best season as a pro came during the 1999 campaign.

That year saw Hardy make his only career trip to the Pro Bowl, garnering first-team All-Pro honors as well. Starting all 16 games for the 14-2 Jaguars, Hardy had 74 tackles, 24 assists and a career high 10.5 quarterback sacks. He only had 18.0 in his other five seasons with the Jaguars combined.

Though nowhere near the sack artist of his collegiate teammate Rice, Hardy was excellent in stopping the run off the edge at outside linebacker. During his prime in Jacksonville, Hardy was the quintessential player that thrived at doing the little things to help his team win. However, his end to his time in Jacksonville wasn’t all that great.

He suffered a knee injury during the 2001 NFL season. It kept him out for the rest of the year and required microfracture surgery. At the time, that injury was seen as career-ending, but the Dallas Cowboys took a chance on him in 2002. He would go on to play the next three NFL seasons split between the Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals before retiring after he 2004 campaign.

Overall, Hardy probably cracks the top-30 on volume alone with the team. He did play in six seasons at a key position in the Jaguars defense. While he ended up with 401 tackles, 105 assists and 28.5 quarterback sacks in his Jaguars career, it is his brilliant 1999 campaign that has him coming in at No. 17 all-time.