They’ve shared thousands of snaps over the years as well as countless hours watching game film in the classroom.
The duo has had tremendous success on game day throughout their 10 years with the Chargers, but equally important is the fact they are as inseparable off the field as they are connected on it.
It’s true that many NFL teammates forge strong bonds over their years together. However, few have created one as strong and meaningful as the one between quarterback
“I couldn’t imagine what it would be like playing without him,” said Rivers.
The pair came into the league together in 2004. Rivers was acquired in the blockbuster trade with the New York Giants after he was selected with the fourth overall pick. In the third round, the Bolts drafted Hardwick out of Purdue 66th overall. With the selections, the Chargers were hoping they’d selected a nucleus to build around on offense for years to come. They likely had no idea how successful a pairing they’d just brought together.
“It’s pretty special to think about it all,” said Hardwick. “Just to be associated with a great player like that and to get to work alongside not only a great player but a great man and a great friend, it’s awesome. He’s so inspiring. It’s really an honor.”
Rivers likewise spoke glowingly on what it’s like to have Hardwick as his center.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Nick is a true warrior on the field. If there is one guy you want to go to battle with, he’s that kind of guy. But even deeper than that is our communication level on the field. We watch so much tape together and we talk about so many looks. We’re constantly talking at the line of scrimmage and there’s a great amount of trust and preparation that goes into what we do. I understand and know what he’s seeing. It’s been 10 years, so that’s a long time spent together.”
In fact, Rivers and Hardwick both mentioned that some of their favorite memories are the moments before the ball is snapped. Apparently, there is some classic banter going on between the two of them as they call out the plays.
“I sure wish they did have those moments on film or something,” Hardwick laughed. “Our conversations are pretty hilarious. We’ll get into a conversation just like we’re out at practice in the middle of the game. Really it’s just a lot of banter back and forth because we watch a lot of tape together. We know what the other one is thinking, so that communication is special. Philip does a lot of work. He’s very humble. Really it’s years of watching and communicating together to where it’s me thinking ‘How can I help?’ I’m just trying to find a way to be of assistance to him and help him because he’s got a lot on his plate. He’s orchestrating the entire unit. So anyway I can help lighten the burden for him and remember a thing here or there that might trigger him when he’s got so much else going on; it’s mainly one of those type things.”
Together, the pair has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows together. As strong as many bonds are between players during their time in the league, once they leave the game and are spread around the country, it’s an unfortunate truth that many end up falling by the wayside.
That won’t be the case between Rivers and Hardwick.
“He’s a teammate and a friend forever,” Rivers said. “There’s no question about that. He’s a true friend. We’ve got so many stories and memories on the field, in the locker room, on bus rides and so on. He’s a guy you’ll never forget.”
Hardwick adamantly responded in a similar fashion.
“We’re very tight,” he said. “Our families are close. We’ve gone on vacation together. There is just a real respect and trust that we’ve built up over the years that has led to a solid friendship. There is no question we’ll always be this way, so it’s really a special thing to go through everything with Philip in my corner.”