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Justin Hardy & Shane Carden Giving One Final Gift to the ECU Program

One last go round: The Pirate connection readies for one last ride.
One last go round: The Pirate connection readies for one last ride.

It is only fitting that two players who will be forever linked in ECU football lore, who went from a noteworthy practice-squad duo to one of the nation’s most lethal QB-WR tandems, will finish their collegiate careers on the same all-star team, this time playing with even more pressure, more on the line than ever before.

Shane Carden and Justin Hardy personify all that Coach Ruffin McNeill promised he would do above any championships: Take the notion of what makes ECU special and turn it into palpable, tangible reality. Two kids – one a local looked over and the other everyone’s 2nd choice – outwardly exemplified what we as fans have always hoped and suspected about ECU football. They are the poster children for the “We are Family” program that has attracted higher levels of talent (ok, maybe more talented diamonds in the Ruff) and notably more loyal and harder working athletes than have come through the doors in decades.

Most of all, what these two players showed every day they were in the purple and gold, was how much they love it Greenville. The joy and passion are hard to miss.

I was thinking the other day, how difficult it must be for players to leave the program – Ruff’s program. I can imagine that it really probably feels like a gut punch to know your last day in the program has arrived. While the doors are always open to former players – after all, you can always come home for family – after spending several years in THIS ECU program, it must really create a void.

Carden and Hardy are so engaged with the fans and the students, it’s as if you feel like your really, really know them and you can’t help but really pull for their success – for them this time.

While the season didn’t go like it could have – should have – it is hard not to say that as a fan base, we have witnessed something very special – tied together by these two extraordinary players and even great ambassadors for the school we all love so much.

While it won’t impact me nearly as much as it will these two young athletes, how their transition to the professional ranks unfolds no doubt will be a saga unto itself for all of us who invested hours of time traveling to and watching games and reading and writing about, and hoping for our and their sake that each week would be a successful one. Long story short, if either of these two fails to make a roster in the NFL…it will sting for us all.

The Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine…they should both get their chances to show what they have to NFL talent brokers. What I hope that these makers of NFL players can really see, is that in these two young men, they have not only great football players who take it to the next level when it really matters…not only personable guys who can fit into any locker room…not only natural leaders who lead by example…but also, two guys whose greatest attributes are loyalty, commitment, and doing things the right way each and every time.

ECU’s football future is solid with ample talent coming in behind the best QB and WR to ever have played at ECU.

The challenge isn’t for the guys coming back to be as talented as Carden and Hardy, but rather, to be the true believers in this program that these two were.

The exposure ECU will get on Saturday from these two is one last give back the duo is giving to the program before they become alums. And while it would be shocking if these two are not fixtures in Greenville over the years to come – barring what should be very busy football schedules next year – what they have given to the Pirate Nation already will serve for years to come.

Congrats boys…and thanks for so many memories!

2 comments on “Justin Hardy & Shane Carden Giving One Final Gift to the ECU Program

  1. Ron, Hope all is well as I have missed reading your work. I agree this will be tough to see these 2 wearing the pirate helmet for the last time.

    I remember 2 years ago when my son showed up for freshman orientation they had a speaker welcoming all students as new members to Pirate Nation. Other than my son few new as to who was speaking to the group but it was number 5. It was not uncommon for Shane to pull up a chair with my son and his friends to have lunch with them at one of the local campus eateries just wanting to blend in with the rest of the students.

    Justin, not one to seek out the spotlight would also take part in many campus functions. In an era that produces the likes of Johnny Football, Jamies, and UNC what two better ambassadors for the college game or our school could you have than Cardy.

    I know many at ECU take great pride in the fact that we can attract players that are not highly recruited and turn them into outstanding players and in this case even better people.

    I get the chance to speak with an Ex NFL great who has a sports show here on the local Comcast station and he and I both agree that teams get to mired in the numbers but never look at the things that cant be measured such as heart, effort, determination, and character. These two would lead the way.

    The NFL however is more about numbers Justin is not all that big at 5-10 and not all that fast, all he does is catch the ball and move the chains. I think with the right situation he could have a great impact on a team and fit a role like Wes Welker, Julian Edleman, or Beasley with the Cowboys.

    Shane on the other hand will be asked to play the toughest position in all of sports and that is NFL QB. Shane lacks the numbers the NFL desires such as size, arm strength and speed. That being said he makes up for it in smarts and the ability to execute a game plan. His biggest liability IMHO is that hes has never played under center which is like having to learn the game all over again. My hope is that he goes to a team that is not in dire need of a QB where he can sit on a practice squad and adjust his came to the faster NFL.

    My hope is that the game gives back to these 2 as they have given back to the Pirate Nation. I hope they both have long and healthy careers.


    • Hey DCP28…been awhile I know and I owe you a call…

      I share your sentiments about these two. Missing them already. I think it is a tougher go for Shane on the next level, but the kid is a competitor who a lot of teams could do worse to have on their rosters.

      I think Hardy is an impact type player on the next level.

      Will catch up soon.

      Best to you.

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