LA Chargers numbers that need to be retired: Nick Hardwick’s 61
When Scott Quessenberry was drafted by the Chargers in 2018 he had a decision to make, should he honor Nick Hardwick, his favorite player growing up by wearing the same number as him? Ultimately it was an easy decision for the former UCLA Bruin, but really, the number 61 should be hanging in the rafters.
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Hardwick was the heart and soul of the Chargers in the early 2000’s. He was the guy everyone looked to bring that fire and passion to the field every single week, and he did that. After walking on at Purdue, the Chargers drafted him in the third round in 2004; alongside quarterback Philip Rivers. Hardwick ended up starting 146 games, including the postseason, for the Chargers and he made the most out of every single one.
Rivers famously swapped his number 17 helmet sticker in favor of Hardwick’s 61 after he went down with the neck injury that ultimately ended his career. That gesture showed just how highly he thought of Hardwick, who he formed a very close friendship with over the years.
He only appeared in one game in that 2014 season and his absence was strongly felt. They ended up starting five different players at center that year. That revolving door has continued after his retirement.
Chris Watt, Max Tuerk and now Quessenberry have all been drafted as the “centers of the future” and maybe Quessenberry will be able to carry that mantle if he’s able to beat out veteran Mike Pouncey, but who knows at this point. Either way, the position has never been the same without Hardwick.
Hardwick was selected to the 2006 Pro Bowl and earned four additional alternate appearances. He was constantly one of the best players at his position throughout his time as a Charger.
In football, you need role players who are able to match what your best players are bringing to the table in terms of passion and intensity. Hardwick matched Rivers step for step in that regard. He was beloved in the locker room, as well as in the stands, and the team should honor him by retiring his number.
Let us know in the comments below what other LA Chargers’ legends you think should have their numbers retired.
*Editor’s correction: The article originally stated that Antonio Gates had not officially retired yet.