History didn’t happen for Justin Hardy on a majestic, one-handed touchdown reception, or a made-for-TV 80-yard streak pattern. History occurred when the East Carolina wide receiver hauled in an 8-yard Shane Carden pass on curl route to break the FBS record for most career receptions.
It was only fitting that Hardy, a former walk-on who has always exhibited a blue-collar work ethic, set the mark on such a workmanlike route.
History also didn’t happen overnight for Hardy, who has had to scratch and claw his way on to the team and into the record books.
The catch came with 5:46 remaining in the second quarter of ECU’s 34-6 victory over Tulane and was Hardy’s 350th of his career, eclipsing former Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles’ mark of 349 set in 2011.
“I’m very proud of his accomplishments,” ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill said. “When you can say that you’re the best in the history of something, the history of college football, that’s saying something. And it’s here at East Carolina University, my alma mater.”
Hardy entered Saturday’s game standing four catches away from college football immortality, and tied the record on a 22-yard gain in the first quarter.
It wasn’t until the second possession of the second quarter that Hardy made history. The possession began after linebacker Maurice Falls stepped in front of a Tanner Lee pass to give the offense the ball at the Tulane 44-yard line. One play later, Carden connected with Hardy on the curl route.
“He just does everything so well,” Carden said. “He’s routes are great, his hands are great and he has a great feel for the game on the field.
“Obviously, off the field we are close, but he just puts so much work into this game whether it’s in the film room or in the offseason throwing with us.”
Hardy, who is ECU’s all-time leader in career receptions (355), yards (4,153) and touchdown receptions (32), finished the game with nine catches for 104 yards.
The game was Hardy’s 15th 100-yard receiving game of his career, while his 4,153 receiving yards is the 13th highest total in FBS history.