Justin Hardy Could Be First AAC Player to Win the Burlsworth Trophy

It goes without saying that ECU’s Justin Hardy deserves some recognition when the star receiver just broke the record for most career receptions in the history of the Football Bowl Subdivision. That kind of accomplishment is the result of some great play, which is why the East Carolina senior has been named one of three finalists for the 5th Annual Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the collegiate player who began their career as a walk-on and has shown outstanding performance on the field.

Joining Hardy are Iowa’s Mark Weisman (running back) and Mississippi State’s Ben Beckwith (guard) were also named finalists. The three were chosen from 55 nominees from across the nation and last week was narrowed to 10 semifinalists.

A four-year starter at wide receiver, Hardy set the NCAA FBS record for career receptions against Tulane in a 34-6 win in American Athletic Conference action on Nov. 22nd. Hardy’s pursuit of former Oklahoma pass catcher Ryan Broyles’ (2008-11) mark of 349 ended with an eight-yard grab on a second-and-five play from the Green Wave 38-yard line with six minutes remaining in the second quarter. Needing just four catches to surpass the standard, he finished the contest with a game-high nine receptions for 104 yards to post his 15th career triple-digit performance.

Hardy, who owns ECU career records for receptions (355), receiving yards (4,153) and touchdown catches (32), has nabbed at least two catches in all 46 career games played, recorded 13 double-digit career reception games, and hauled down at least one TD pass in 28 contests.

The Vanceboro, N.C. native is the lone Pirate receiver to post three-straight 1,000-yard seasons (1,105 in 2012, 1,284 in 2013, 1,106 in 2014), and against Cincinnati became just the 16th player in FBS history with 4,000-plus receiving yards, which came on a 31-yard reception in the third quarter – currently ranks 13th on the all-time FBS list. He currently stands among the FBS leaders (Top 35) in receptions per game (4th/8.9 pg), receiving yards per game (8th/110.6 pg), receiving yards (11th/1,106) and receiving TDs (31st/7).

A two-time First-Team All-Conference USA receiver, Hardy hauled down an ECU and league-best 114 passes for 1,284 yards a year ago to establish new single-season Pirate records to go along with his eight touchdowns. Against Tulane, he caught a single-game school record 17 balls for 230 yards, besting his 16-catch, 191-yard game in the season opener against Old Dominion. At the conclusion of his junior year, he was the only player in league history to have multiple 16-plus catches in a game (three times), and his 17 receptions against the Green Wave are tied for third all-time.

As a walk-on in 2010, Hardy served as a valuable member of the scout teams while redshirting during his initial season. After receiving a full scholarship the following spring, he had a breakout year during his first season on the active roster by setting ECU freshman records with 64 receptions and 658 yards, while tying the TD mark with six.

During sophomore season, he earned First-Team All C-USA honors as a receiver and was a second-team choice as a punt returner. He became just the fourth receiver in school history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in a single-season, which ranks fifth all-time. Hardy also ranked among the school’s single-season leaders in receiving TDs (2nd/11) and receptions (3rd/88).

The trophy is named in honor of Brandon Burlsworth, who walked on to the Arkansas Razorbacks in 1994, worked his way to being a three-year starter and was eventually named an All-American in 1998. Burlsworth was selected as the 63rd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL Draft but was killed in a car accident 11 days later. The Burlsworth Foundation was created in his memory and supports the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular those children that have limited opportunities.

The Springdale Rotary Club will host a banquet on Dec. 8th in Springdale, Ark. to honor the finalists and to announce the 2014 winner.

If you want to vote for Justin Hardy and improve the chances of an American Athletic Conference player winning the trophy, fans will be allowed to vote for their favorite player via the Fan Vote. Voting can be accessed at www.burlsworthtrophy.com and began with the top 10 semifinalists and continue as the selection committee announces the winner on Dec. 8.

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