The Oakland Raiders have signed basketball player Andre Hardy to the team. No, this isn’t a joke, it’s too late for April Fool’s and you don’t need to get your glasses checked either. When I first heard of the signing I had to be sure I was reading correctly, and I think many fans might be feeling the same way. New general manager Reggie McKenzie is going to do what he needs to do considering his very limited budget, and apparently Hardy fit what he was looking for.
Hardy was signed as a tight end although the 6-foot-5, 250-pound player spent the past two years playing basketball at Cal State Fullerton. He was “selected as the Big West Conference Newcomer of the Year as a junior after averaging 10.6 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game,” according to Raiders.com.
Less than two weeks ago the former Cal State Fullerton power forward hired agent Bardia Ghahremani, in hopes of following in his father Andre’s footsteps. His dad was a fifth-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1984 and spent three seasons as a running back in the NFL with San Francisco, Seattle and Philadelphia.
Paul Gutierrez of CSNBayArea.com reports that he was signed “presumably as a project to push the three tight ends already on the Raiders roster in Brandon Myers, David Ausberry and Richard Gordon.” McKenzie spoke about a desire to to add depth at tight end.
The 25-year-old reportedly worked out for the 49ers as well, and ran a 40-yard dash in 4.7-seconds. He has no collegiate football experience whatsoever. This may be one of the more interesting signings of the offseason, although Hardy is said to have drawn interest from more than a few teams, and signing a tight end with a college basketball background seems to be a growing trend.
Earlier this month Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano talked about why so many potential tight ends opt to play basketball in their teen years and why the NFL seems to turn to former basketball player, as in Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham.
Schiano remarked, “It’s AAU basketball. Guys who are 6-2 as ninth-graders and have an opportunity to go to Las Vegas on a weekend trip, an opportunity to go to California or Florida in a basketball tournament, get a nice pair of shoes, a sweatsuit, and then they stop growing and there’s not a lot of 6-foot-3 power forwards. That’s the kind of athletes you need to play tight end. That was the hardest position to recruit in college. You had to project. Quite frankly, it’s the hardest position in this league to find. With the special guys, you can work mismatches.’’
So while it might seem like a strange move it might make a lot more sense than one might think, and if anyone knows what he’s doing, I believe it’s McKenzie.
K.C. Dermody grew up in the Bay Area of California, and has been an Oakland Raiders fan for her entire life. She has continued her loyalty to the team through its many ups and downs over the decades, and has been privileged to meet several of her favorite players, including famed quarterback, Jim Plunkett. Follow her on Twitter @kcdermody or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kcdermodywriter.
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