Former NFL center Hardwick shares at dads’ meeting


Former NFL center Nick Hardwick figured he had it made.

“I retired after 11 seasons with the same team,” said Hardwick, who played with the San Diego Chargers before the team’s move to Los Angeles. “I made a massive amount of money. I was the team captain the last five years I played. I had a retirement press conference. The entire news media was there. My whole team was there. I had the most dream-like career you could have.”

Hardwick announced at the 2015 news conference he was going to be working as a disc jockey on a classic rock station for three hours a day.

“Two months later, I called my boss and quit,” he said. “I walked inside and told my wife she could take everything but a million dollars and I’m going to Nicaragua. I had two boys, then 3 and 1 years old. It took me a long time for me to realize what I was saying is, I’m going to Nicaragua to kill myself.”

His wife, Jayme, told him he wasn’t leaving his boys and they would get him the help he needed, and they did.

Hardwick, now a Westfield High School assistant football coach, shared at the first meeting of the Men of Westfield May 7 in at the West Fork Whiskey Co. in Westfield. The group was created for fathers to share ways to be better dads. Hardwick’s son Hudson is 11 and Teddy 9.

Hardwick, a 1999 Lawrence North High School graduate, moved to Westfield three years ago. He coached in Westfield youth football leagues the first two years. Hardwick was an IHSAA state wrestling runner-up in the 171-pound class at Lawrence North but didn’t play football.

Inspired by Purdue University’s 2000 Rose Bowl season, he walked onto the Boilermakers’ football team in 2001 after his sophomore year. He played one year at defensive tackle before moving to the offensive line. He was a third-round pick in the 2004 NFL draft.

Hardwick now provides support for NFL players who have difficulty transitioning after retiring.

“I’ve had three former teammates in the last five years, not kill themselves but die from alcohol and drugs,” he said. “The way fans look at players is probably the way a child looks at his father. A dad is impervious, like a wall. Your will is unbreakable, but there I was, about to kill myself after an amazing career like that.”

Hardwick had to retire because of a serious neck injury. He also suffered six concussions but said he doesn’t believe those were the main issue behind his suicidal thoughts.

“The things that affected me were losing my identity, losing my passion and purpose, losing my teammates, losing a goal, losing the urgency and losing the fanfare factor of it,” he said. “Going from that speed of life to a 9 to 5 job in a place where I’m not outside and fighting (was challenging).”

Hardwick, who runs a weight-loss company called Train Like A Lineman, does a podcast called “The Hardwick Life Podcast.” Before leaving San Diego, he worked on the Chargers radio broadcasts for three years.

Hardwick said he agreed with the changes to make the NFL less violent to curb concussions. He compared the changes to parenting.

“I grew up in a hard house,” he said. “My dad was old school. His dad was old school. He probably thought he was taking it easy on me, but he wasn’t. It felt like I got spanked every night for years. But the dad game has changed. Parenting has changed. Society has changed. The social construct is different than it’s ever been, but it can still be pretty awesome. It’s only going to be awesome if we change with the change.

“We’re here for the evolution of being a better dad. I struggle with this: how do we give the essence of what our parents gave us, tough, respectful, hard-working but evolve it to bring in more components, kindness, empathy, compassion.”

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