Pirates' Hardin voted UC coach of year, again
Blair Hardin just turned 30 years old, and he knows what he wants to do with the rest of his working life.
Hardin, following in his father’s footsteps, plans to spend the next three decades coaching high school football.
Hardin has been selected Union County’s Coach of the Year by The Enquirer-Journal for the third consecutive season after leading Porter Ridge to a 14-1 record that included a 39-38 loss in the 4A state title game.
Over the last three years, the Pirates have a 40-5 record.
Coming off his fifth season as a head coach, Hardin is just getting started.
“I plan to be a high school coach for the next 30, 35 years,” he said.
Hardin played receiver for his dad, Bruce, at A.L. Brown and won a state championship, then played collegiately at The Citadel. Asked if he is tempted to try the college coaching ranks one day, Hardin sounded clear about his stance.
“I have no interest in college football,” Hardin said. “I love watching it and going to clinics and learning, but I don’t want to coach at the college level. I love the purity of the high school level and the relationship with the kids.
“It’s been rewarding to watch my dad over his 45-year career. Coaching high school football is a part of me. It’s what I really enjoy.”
Hardin took over a dismal program that had never made the playoffs.
The Pirates had a breakout season in 2010, going 13-2 and reaching the state semifinal round.
Porter Ridge has played for the state championship two years in a row, but has yet to clear the final hurdle.
“You spend 11 months preparing and the kids put everything they have into it and then you come up one point short in the championship game, that’s tough,” Hardin said. “Over Christmas Break I had a chance to sit back and reflect on the season, and the accomplishments of the kids. I talked to my dad and brother (Justin) about it and they helped me put the last two years in perspective. It’s been amazing to be a part of it and to watch these young men grow and to watch our community support them.”
Six assistants have been with Hardin through the rebuilding process, including defensive coordinator Mike Hertz, John Castator, Grayson Capps, John Newton, Danny Whitley and Greg Lair.
“Those assistants deserve as much credit as me or any of the players for what we’ve accomplished,” Hardin said. “We really work well together. There’s no egos. It’s a great working environment. My dad always says ‘You’re only as good as your staff’ and I have a great staff.”
Porter Ridge’s boosters cover the expenses to send Hardin and his staff to a different coaching clinic each offseason. Last year they went to the University of Oregon and studied under Chip Kelly’s staff.
“We try to go to schools that play similar to our style,” Hardin said. “Teams that have speed but not a lot of size. We really got a chance to get into the fine details of Oregon’s offense. It was a great trip, a great learning experience.”
The Pirates started working out for the 2013 season last week.
Porter Ridge will return almost all of its perimeter players, and the talent coming up looks promising. The Pirates’ junior varsity team went undefeated in 2012, and the year before lost just one game (by one point).
Hardin said the program has established roots.
“It all starts with our youth program,” he said. “We have a great Pop Warner association and a great middle school program. The kids take pride in keeping the program at a high level. We expect to compete for championships every year now.”