Jets CB Justin Hardee on fulfilling his mother's expectations: 'My goal in life is to make her proud'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Colin Martin
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Justin Hardee Jets press
Justin Hardee Jets press

The Jets signed cornerback Justin Hardee to a three-year deal on Tuesday, after the undrafted 27-year-old played for the New Orleans Saints since 2017.

He made 47 total tackles and one interception in 56 games with the team, playing mostly special teams during his time in New Orleans. Hardee spoke to media for the first as a member of the Jets on Thursday, discussing his motivation and the hard work he's put in to get to this point in his career.

"Obviously going through free agency and stuff, just left [the] New Orleans Saints which were in a very big cap problem, and the Jets were one of the ones who really reached out to me and really wanted me," Hardee said. "That's where I wanted to go, where I was wanted, not where I was just tolerated. Somewhere I could take advantage of the opportunity, and be a part of something special. And very looking forward to being in New York and being a Jet, it means a lot to me. Just like I said being wanted, being undrafted you're rarely wanted. Being undrafted you get the short end of the stick. To turn those tables around for me in a positive light, it's a true blessing from God."

During the Zoom call with reporters, Hardee stood up and pointed to his chest repeatedly, showing everyone why he's made it this far in his career. The corner would go on to talk about his late mother, who passed away from sarcoidosis in 2013.

"I don't know if you all can see me, but right here, my heart," Hardee said. "That's why I'm good at it, my heart. I won't back down, I'm a maniac on the field. I just play with grit man. I play like I'm trying to feed my son. I play like I told my mother I was going to play hard. She's up in the sky watching me, I cannot disappoint her. That's why I believe I'm good at special teams because I will not be denied.

"Growing up younger man, she went to work everyday with no complaints. Even during battling with her sickness and stuff, she got up and fought. So if I'm not going through any of those type of things that she was going through, and I witnessed that, and I wanted to buy her a house and I wanted to buy her a car, and now I'm not able to do that. I want to do everything in my power I can to put myself in a position where if she was here, I would be doing it. Just because that's how she left me, she left me with the expectations. Those expectations I have to fulfill, because that's my goal in life is to make her proud."

Hardee has embraced his role on the special teams, but understands the opportunity to play more defense will be there as long as he continues to work hard.

"Of course, special teams is the reason why I'm here, but I won't ever settle," Hardee said. "Talking to the defense, of course there'll be opportunities there. It's up to me. Those opportunities are up to me. And even if they had no intentions of playing me at corner, and I'm not saying they don't. If I go out there and do my thing, I can't be denied. That's just my mentality, control what you can control and work hard."

He also talked about the relationships that he's had with people on the Jets, and the comfort of knowing mutual people within the organization.

"My boy Saquon Hampton, he was here just this past season," Hardee said. "A guy that I was with at the Saints. There's a lot with the coaches and stuff, a lot of mutual people. My defensive back coach was from Cleveland, Ohio, which was coincidence, and that's where I'm from. Just like that, I go from not knowing anybody to boom just like that, all good."