Mecole Hardman was an unlikely hero for the Chiefs on Sunday night, catching the game-winning touchdown in overtime to make Kansas City back-to-back Super Bowl champions.
After winning Super Bowl LVII with the Chiefs last season, Hardman signed with the Jets as a free agent. But with minimal playing time — he caught just one pass for 6 yards in five games with New York — the Jets traded him back to the Chiefs in October.
Battling through injury, Hardman played just six regular-season games for the Chiefs, catching 14 passes for 118 yards. Then he had a critical giveaway in the divisional round against Buffalo, fumbling a ball out of bounds in the end zone for a touchback.
But on the biggest stage of the Super Bowl, Hardman caught a 52-yard bomb for the game’s longest play. And when the Chiefs needed a touchdown to become back-to-back champions, Patrick Mahomes turned to a wide-open Hardman for a 3-yard score.
After the game, tight end Travis Kelce said he “couldn’t be happier” for Hardman to come through in that moment.
“It brought me to tears seeing that he was the man that got us this ring,” Kelce said. “Sometimes the media world can be pretty harsh on a guy. … Mecole is one of my favorite teammates ever because he just keeps showing up and he keeps trying to find ways to win. Had a huge play for us early on that kind of sparked us and on top of that, finds a way to win the game for us when everybody counted him out — even the Jets counted him out.
“And man, we were so excited when he got back in the building because he’s the kind of guy who brings everybody together. He’s got that kind of personality.”
As for the play itself, Kelce said he realized Hardman was going to be wide open once he saw 49ers defenders start to run with him.
“Man, it’s an electric feeling knowing all eyes are on you and somebody else is open,” Kelce said.
Now Hardman, Kelce, and the rest of the Chiefs will be able to celebrate with a parade for the second year in a row.