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Hardman's goal: Get noticed by going unnoticed

September 05, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

HANCOCK -- Kenny Hardman is probably the most important yet most invisible player on the Hancock football team.

And yet, you can't help but see him every time he steps on the field.

"Why is he important to us? He's 6-foot-2 and 335 pounds," said Hancock coach Dave Mahaffey with a laugh.

So the physical dimensions make the senior easy to spot, but when he's playing, he's doing his job if he goes unnoticed.

That's because Hardman is a lineman. It's one of those jobs where if you don't hear anything, usually you are doing a good job. But if you mess up, there are consequences to be paid.

And as the anchor of the Panthers' offensive and defensive lines, Hardman will be playing the game of "Truth or Consequences."

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"It all puts a lot of weight on my shoulders," Hardman said. "I worry about how I do so I can help my peers."

Hardman is in a cause-and-effect situation. If he does his job well, Hancock's offense and defense runs efficiently. If he doesn't, the Panthers will look like they are stuck in rush hour traffic.

"Without a doubt, he is our strongest player and our most experienced lineman," Mahaffey said. "He is very important to us from the aspect that he has bought into the program and bought into practices. The key for him is to be on the field 80-85 percent of the snaps in a game."

Hardman doesn't have much choice. Hancock has just 24 players on the roster. And with eight players playing both offense and defense, the Panthers rarely get the chance to have live practices. Most everything is simulated.

It puts Hardman in a tough situation because he is trying to get fit to fill his playing demands while learning the system of Mahaffey, who is in his first year on the job at Hancock.

And to top it off, there really isn't a personal gauge -- like yardage or scoring statistics -- that tells anyone numerically that Hardman is doing his job.

"I guess on each play, if the ball carrier gets positive yards, I've done my job. If he doesn't, I didn't and I have to try harder," Hardman said. "On defense, if I clog a gap and someone gets the tackle, I did my job. Hopefully, I'll get past my man and get a hit.

"On both sides of the ball, if I mess up, it's hard not to see it. But when I do well, you might see it."

For Hardman, football is a way of life. He gets constant evaluations from his grandfather Ron Renner, who coached at Hedgesville and Jefferson.

"He knows the game and keeps telling me what I do well and what I don't," Hardman said. "There's no rest when it comes to the coaching."

Still, Hardman's success is something to be seen and not counted.

"If everyone does their job, we can accomplish what we need to do on the field, " Hardman said. "It has to be the whole line working together."

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