Bengals defensive lineman Marcus Hardison is an immensely gifted athlete, but he happens to play on a star-studded defensive line. Because of that, he didn't see any time on the field during his rookie year. But thanks to the guidance of players like Geno Atkins and Domata Peko, and the help of his coaches, he could be seeing the field pretty often in 2016.
We spoke with Hardison to hear about how he's prepping for the season, his goals and much more.
Hardison's journey to the NFL began as a backup quarterback for Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Florida. He stepped in as a defensive lineman after two members of the line went down with injuries. Without any preparation, he managed to come up big in an important game, and just like that, his life was changed.
After a stellar senior season at Arizona State, in which he totaled 10 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss, Hardison was drafted by the Bengals in the fourth round of the 2015 Draft. Now, he must now remain patient and wait for his turn behind the Bengals' talented line.
Hardison acknowledges that the lack of playing time last year was "a little hard" because he's spent his entire life contributing and being a focal point of each defense he's played on. "Everything happens for a reason. I've gotta trust the process and become a better player off the field. Just keep pushing and working and doing what I'm doing," Hardison said.
But Paul Guenther and the veterans, like Atkins and Peko, have offered him invaluable advice throughout the process. Another issue for Hardison is determining whether he is a defensive tackle or defensive end. After playing end for four years at Arizona State, he is now mainly being used at defensive tackle, though he plays defensive end in three-man fronts.
"I played four years in college as a defensive end and coming in the NFL I'm playing defensive tackle. It's an adjustment but everyday is a learning process for me to get better everyday. So last year was a new thing, this year I'm feeling a lot more comfortable," Hardison said.
Learning from Atkins has also made the process a lot easier.
"Watching Geno day in and day out, and gameday, he's an all-time pro so you can't get any better than having someone like him in front of you to learn from," Hardison said while noting that guards Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling "give me a run for my money every day." Hardison's goals going forward are to graduate from ASU and to make the Pro Bowl.