“We had a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip to Australia planned last year and I haven’t made that up,” Hardwick said. “I still owe her.”
While he’s still trying to make up for the lost visit to the Land Down Under, Hardwick received a little perspective last offseason that helped him enjoy his vacations a little more this spring.
The Hardwicks’ dream vacation to Australia was cancelled when Nick was forced to have surgery on his foot in March. Rather than relaxing and experiencing another culture, he was forced to spend long days at Chargers Park trying to rehab from his operation.
“It’s just nice to be able to get out of the house right now,” Hardwick said. “When you’re injured, you’re depressed. It’s a hard thing to understand if you’ve never gone through something like that. It’s hard to even know it’s sunny outside when you’re injured. You just got to work and try to get better.”
Hardwick’s bum foot sidelined him for all of training camp as well as the first three games of the season. He returned to the lineup in Week 4 in Oakland, but for the first few games, the former Pro Bowler didn’t feel like he was playing to the level he knew he was capable of.
“For a while I felt like I was just hanging on,” Hardwick said. “I wasn’t performing poorly, but I wasn’t myself. Some of the blocks that I would have made I wasn’t making. It probably wasn’t noticeable to anybody but myself, but I knew exactly what I was and wasn’t doing.”
With teammates around him playing through injuries, Hardwick believed it was his duty as a leader to fight through. Around midseason, the pain in Hardwick’s foot became less of an issue and he felt his level of play increase.
“I felt like I was having really good games at the end of the year,” Hardwick said. “I felt normal at the end of the year. I was doing things that I wanted to do for a long time but was unable to do. I made blocks that I was proud of. I was glad I pushed myself and played.”
With his body 100 percent healthy this spring, Hardwick enjoyed a chance to travel early in the offseason and is now appreciative that he can physically get ready for his sixth NFL season. He’s working out with his teammates through the Chargers’ offseason conditioning program and is looking forward to participating in Offseason Coaching Sessions (OCS’s), minicamp and training camp, something he couldn’t do a year ago.
“The offseason program is huge,” Hardwick said. “You obviously develop as a team together so when guys aren’t there that are going to be a part of things, it takes its toll. I’m glad I get to be a part of it all this year.”
In addition to his work on the field, Hardwick spent some time this spring preparing for life after football. He was one of 95 players selected to participate in the NFL Business and Entrepreneurial Program. Hardwick spent a week at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
The program focused on a broad range of business topics, including financial analysis, entrepreneurship, real estate development, stock market investing, negotiation skills, risk management and community reinvestment.
Professional athletes are regularly presented with business and investment opportunities, and Hardwick said that his time at Wharton will help him make the right decisions in those situations.
“More than anything, it helps you ask better questions of the people you’re working with and are working for you,” Hardwick said. “There’s a statistic that 78 percent of NFL players are broke after two years out of the league, which is a very scary number. I think it should make us stop and consider that not all the opportunities presented to us are good.”
“It gives you a bigger picture of what’s out there and what’s available. You can’t get into a lot of specifics in a week, but they try to show you that there’s a bigger world out there and how to make the most of opportunities.”