Nick Hardwick's passion and authenticity is what made him one of the most popular players in Chargers history. The Pro Bowl center poured his heart and soul on the field for 11 years, earning a spot on the franchise's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team before transitioning into broadcasting prior to the 2015 season.
On Monday, the Bolts announced he'll continue to be an integral part of the franchise, serving as the color commentator on KFI AM-640's game broadcasts.
"The Chargers are my family, and I'm excited to continue being a part of this franchise," Hardwick said. "I love this team. I love watching football, and I love being a conduit to transmit what I am seeing on the field through the radio. I love the medium of the radio. I love being able to open my eyes on the spot and let what I see come naturally through my mouth. You are going to get honesty, passion and energy every single game."
Matt "Money" Smith will join Hardwick in the booth on play-by-play. A fan of Smith's large body of work over the years, the longtime center is eager to begin working with his new partner.
"I've gotten the chance to speak with him a few times. I've been a guest on his show with Petros, and they are so much fun. He is high energy. To me, that's huge for a booth. You have to have the natural energy like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth between the two of us. I feed on that energy. It's going to be like a tennis match back and forth keeping up the pace. I know it's going to be captivating radio. He does a great job in everything he does, and I think it will translate perfectly for the two of us. I'm honored to be a part of this broadcast team."
However, Hardwick admits he didn't think that would be the case immediately following the team's relocation in January. It took months to sort out his emotions, and a handful of heart-to-heart conversations with those inside the organization. Once he did, it became clear he is a Charger to the core.
"I'm fueled by passion, and after the team made the decision to relocate, my emotions got the better of me," he explained. "I was confused, and didn't know how to react. I lashed out and struggled to understand what it was I was feeling. But after several months, it became clear that the Chargers are a part of who I am. It is in my blood. I have to be honest with my own emotions and my passions. Football fires me up, and the Chargers are my family. It's my love. It's my passion. I feel like I am coming home back to the organization I've fought so hard for. I have a passion for the Chargers, and I enjoy sharing that with the fans. I look forward to continuing to share the knowledge I have, and to keep learning."
The raw, honest manner in which Hardwick explains his emotional journey back to the booth highlights the traits that make him a successful commentator. Hardwick is nothing if not authentic, which is why he excels at his craft. He brings that same approach to each broadcast, relishing the chance to connect with the fans.
"I am authentic," he admitted. "I do give you unedited passion and energy. I say what I think at the time, and I think that's what made me good at football. It's also what makes me good on the radio. At times it can be a detriment, but that's who I am. That's the package you'll get. I'm honest with myself and my feelings, and my feelings around the relocation situation changed. It took time to get over the initial shock, but once I did, I realized I wanted to be back. I want to be a part of this team because I think there are some great things on the horizon for this franchise."
This year's NFL Draft proved to be a turning point for Hardwick.
As part of his daily radio program Hardwick and Richards on XTRA 1360 Fox Sports San Diego, he'd address a wide range of topics in the world of sports. That included the NFL Draft, where he'd focus and debate needs for all 32 NFL teams.
It was at this moment that he came to a pivotal realization.
"When the draft came around, I found myself only caring about the Chargers. I* only *got truly excited about who they picked. This franchise is headed in the right direction. The realization hit me that I can't put football down. I'm a football guy. Really, I'm a Charger. I can't cheer or care for anybody else. I want to be on the inside. I want to be involved. I want to be the one calling the games. I have a passion for the Chargers. There is no two-ways around it. So when presented with the opportunity to continue as color commentator, I know I am going against what I said right after the franchise decided to relocate, but I have to be honest with myself. I have to be honest with my own emotions and my passions. And that passion is with the Chargers."