It was something Hardy King hadn't heard in 43 years - a high school football crowd cheering for him.
Harlem High School football coach Jimmie Lewis and former Bulldog Hardy King hold King's retired jersey during a halftime ceremony at Friday night's football game.
Photo by Donnie Fetter
"This is a day that all athletes look forward to but don't ever really expect it to happen," said King, who now lives in Augusta. "I'm very proud to be standing here today."
On Oct. 1, Harlem High School football coach Jimmy Lewis and Bulldog fans honored King during the halftime of Harlem's game against Glenn Hills by retiring King's high school jersey number - 21.
"When you mention Harlem football, the name that comes to mind is Hardy King," Lewis told fans sitting in the stands.
King, 60, first played football for Harlem as an eighth-grader in 1957, the first year the program was started.
In his years as a starting running back, from 1959 to 1961, King set the standard by which all other Bulldogs were to be judged.
In his senior year, he rushed for 1,800 yards and was the All-state Class C Back of the Year. He also was selected to the All-Southern States All-Star Team in 1961.
In addition, King led the Augusta area in scoring during the three years he was a starter and once scored five touchdowns against Hephzibah High School while racking up 500 all-purpose yards. In his senior year, King scored the only two touchdowns all season against Thomson High School, a team that became the state champion in 1961.
Outside of football, King was a track star for Harlem.
He gave the school its first state title when he won the long jump in 1961 as a junior with a leap of 22 feet, 8 inches.
He also successfully defended his state title in the long jump in 1962 and added the state title for the 100-yard dash, running the distance in 9.6 seconds.
"I always thought the reason he was so fast was because he didn't want to get hit," joked Henry Dukes, a former football coach of King's. "Turned out that was true, because no one hardly ever did."
King's second football coach, Jesse Finch, had a different opinion.
"He could not stand to get beat," Finch said. "Hardy is the best back I've ever coached and one of the best backs I've ever seen."
Now, the framed red jersey, the first to be retired at Harlem High, with the number 21 in large numerals on the back and the letters K-I-N-G printed across the top, will be displayed in the commons area of Harlem High so future generations can remember of the school's first athletic stars.
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