McCallie's Jay Hardy making strong first impressions on Auburn defensive front

Auburn Athletics photo by Todd Van Emst / Auburn defensive lineman Jay Hardy, a freshman from McCallie, competes during the first preseason scrimmage inside Jordan-Hare Stadium on Aug. 22.
Auburn Athletics photo by Todd Van Emst / Auburn defensive lineman Jay Hardy, a freshman from McCallie, competes during the first preseason scrimmage inside Jordan-Hare Stadium on Aug. 22.

Former McCallie School defensive lineman Jay Hardy must be doing something right during his first few weeks as an Auburn freshman.

The 6-foot-4, 299-pounder already has one of those single-digit jersey numbers that tend to stand out whenever the Tigers play.

Hardy is joining an Auburn defense that extended its proud history last season by holding LSU to its lowest point total, tallied two scores to catapult the Tigers to an upset of rival Alabama, and had three players who were among the top 50 selections in April's NFL draft. All three of those picks - defensive tackle Derrick Brown (jersey No. 5), cornerback Noah Igbinoghene (4) and defensive end Marlon Davidson (3) - were single-digit standouts for the Tigers.

"I think Jay is off to a good start, and it's not just him but a lot of our freshmen," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "Most of our freshmen we're going to need to rely on this year, and we've made that clear. I think it's a great whole group that's done a solid job, but I'm really excited about Jay and what he brings for the future."

Hardy is studying engineering and is wearing the No. 4 jersey that Igbinoghene left behind, but the former Blue Tornado all-state selection is reminding his new teammates of Brown. The 6-5, 318-pound Brown racked up 3.5 tackles for loss in last season's Iron Bowl, helping cement his standing as the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year.

The Carolina Panthers took Brown with the seventh overall pick of the draft.

"I really think Jay has come along pretty good, and he reminds me of Derrick with his body type," said senior defensive end Big Kat Bryant, who wears jersey No. 1. "I was looking at him the other day from the back, and it reminded me of Derrick. For Jay, it's learning process right now, and everything this year is not usual or normal, so the learning curve is a little bit different for him.

"He's got a great motor. He's got a great attitude. He's just got to learn everything, and he's coming along with that."

photo Photo by Cade Deakin / McCallie's Jay Hardy smiles on the sideline during a home playoff game against Christian Brothers on Nov. 15, 2019.

Hardy, the nation's No. 13 defensive tackle and No. 101 overall recruit in the composite rankings for the 2020 signing class, has evoked memories of Brown in the eyes of senior defensive tackle Tyrone Truesdell as well.

"I feel like he's going to be very versatile, and there will be a lot that he can bring to the team," Truesdell said. "He reminds me a lot of Derrick, just seeing how he plays and how certain things stand out to me and how fast he can catch on. That means a lot, because with all that's going on, we're going to need guys ready."

Truesdell wears No. 94, explaining, "For some reason, I just like No. 94, but a lot of our big guys love those single-digit numbers. I guess there is a little swag to them. I'm old-fashioned, though, so I like No. 94."

Brown and Davidson were the defensive line headliners of Auburn's 2016 signing class, just as Hardy and defensive end Zykeivous Walker of Ellaville, Georgia, were earlier this year. The initiation for all Auburn freshman defensive linemen involves multiple verbal chewings from position coach Rodney Garner, but the veterans do their best to prepare them.

"We all let the newcomers know how 'Coach G' is so that it won't be a surprise to them," Bryant said. "We let them know beforehand, so when it does happen - I always tell the guys just to embrace it. He's a great coach, and if he's yelling at you, it's for a reason."

Said Truesdell: "The harder he gets on you, the more potential you've got. He's got to get it out of you, and it's the only way he knows how."

As Hardy has surely discovered by this point.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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