By John Turney
Jack Gregory, a 100-sack career player passed away and today the news hit that Cedrick Hardman is gone, too. Hardman also had over 100 sacks in his career (122½). Hardman passed away March 8, 2019, at the age of 70.
Hardman was drafted out of North Texas University by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round (9th overall) of the 1970 NFL Draft. He was a standout at North Texas, being named to their athletics Hall of Fame and was named to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Centennial Team, and was named to the North Texas All-Century team as well.
He began his career as a designated pass rusher and a rotational player on the 49ers defensive line, but late in his rookie season secured a starting spot. He was very effective as a pass rusher right away in the NFL but his run defense did lack some. One of his 49er coaches, Mike Giddings, said that they "held a party for Ced after he closed his first trap. The party was in 1972, his third season".
Nonetheless, he was a key player for the good 1970s 49er teams that won the NFC West from 1970-72, making the Oakland Tribune's All-Rookie team in 1970 and in 1971 he was Second-team All-Pro while leading the NFL (unofficially) with 18 sacks.
Additionally, Paul Zimmerman named him to his personal New York Post All-Pro Team in 1971 and named him to his personal All-Decade Team for the 1970s. Hardman ended his 49er career with 107.0 sacks and that coincided with the decade of 1970-79 and that 107 sack total was, according to PFJ, the most of any player in the 1970s.
Hardman was a flamboyant type, he drove a Caddilac with the personalized plate of "NASTY" and wore the 'mod' clothes of the 1970s era. He reportedly spent much of his rookie salary on his wardrobe which eventually included a "$450 black and white leather suit with fringe on top and on the sides and a 12-inch peace symbol on the front".
His defensive line coach Paul Wiggin said "our concept of defense there is no place for a one-man show. This puts a restriction on guys who want to blow in the backfield on every play". Still, in his six seasons in the Flex scheme, he totaled 67 sacks.
His line coach, Earl Leggett said in midseason, 1978, "Cedrick's doing a helluva job for us. It's an accumulation of things, individual effort, he gives us leadership".
Fred Dean did it for the 49ers) and he led the Raiders with 9½ sacks.
Hardman returned to that role in 1981 and that ended his NFL career. He returned to pro football in 1983 as a starting right defensive end for the Oakland Invaders of the USFL and led that squad with eight sacks (as a 3-4 defensive end in base defense). Hardman could seemingly roll out of bed and rush the passer, which is what Hardman once termed "the main reason for living the first 13 years of my adult life".
Hardman, at 6-3, 255, and a 4.8 or so 40-yard dash but a very quick 'get off', would likely be a high draft pick now as an edge rusher and that cannot be said of all the players 40-50 years ago but the way the NFL game is played now, Hardman, with his skill set, would fit having enough size and speed to compete. Mike Giddings, one of his 49er coaches said this, "(P)erhaps no DE had his upfield burst of speed. Made him ‘trappable’ early in career but his ‘eyes lit up’ when 49ers put an opponent in 3rd and long”. Essentially those comments confirm that he was a rush-the-passer first kind of player, but since he did that so well, he was a valuable player.
Hardman dabbled in acting during and after his career, but he also coached. He was a head coach a Laguna Beach High School but that was derailed when Hardman was arrested for cocaine possession, something that haunted Hardman.
|In Stir Crazy with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor|
|Shots from 1972's "The Candidate" Starring Robert Redford|
Yes, he was.
1970s All-Decade Team (Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman)
Major All-Pro Squads:
1971 Second-team All-Pro (PFWA); Pro Bowl
1975 Second-team All-Pro (NEA); Pro Bowl
Minor All-Pro Squads:
1971 First-team All-Pro (Paul Zimmerman—New York Post)
1972 Second-team All-Pro (Football News)
1975 First-team All-Pro (Cliff Christl—Green Bay Press-Gazette)
1976 First-team All-Pro (George Allen—Sport Magazine)
Major All-Conference Squads:
1971 Second-team All-NFC (UPI)
1972 Honorable mention All-NFC (UPI)
1975 First-team All-NFC (SN)
1976 Honorable mention All-NFC (UPI)
1977 Honorable mention All-NFC (UPI)