Chargers countdown to 2020: Best player ever to wear No. 61

Nick Hardwick #61 of the San Diego Chargers (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Nick Hardwick #61 of the San Diego Chargers (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

With 61 days left before the Chargers kick off their 2020 NFL campaign, Bolt Beat names the best player in team history to wear No. 61.

The numbers are counting down between now and when the Los Angeles Chargers kick off their 2020 campaign.

And including today, we’re officially 61 days away from Los Angeles opening up its regular-season matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. With Bolt Beat running its series on the best players to don a jersey number corresponding with the daily countdown, it’s only natural to look at the best player ever in franchise history to wear No. 61.

Drumroll, please…

The best No. 61 in Los Angeles Chargers history: Nick Hardwick

The best player in Los Angeles Chargers history to wear No. 61? None other than former center Nick Hardwick.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Hardwick spent his entire career with the Chargers after being selected in Round 3 of the 2004 NFL Draft out of Purdue. Thanks to the former starter, Jason Ball, holding out in light of a contract dispute, Hardwick emerged as a regular starter his rookie season and would retain that role for nearly the entirety of his exceptional 11-year career.

All spent with the Bolts.

In 2006, Hardwick’s third year in the league, he made his first and only Pro Bowl appearance. But arguably the bigger story from his career was in 2009 when he suffered a serious ankle injury that sidelined him for all but three games.

“I’m fine,” Hardwick told ESPN after the injury before joking, “I’m emotionally stable.”

The injury was serious enough to potentially end Hardwick’s career. Yet he was able to return the following season for all 16 regular-season games, starting a streak of playing each game as a starter for the next four seasons.

That streak finally ended one game into the 2014 season in which Hardwick landed on injured reserve with a neck injury.

The longtime veteran finally decided to call it a career the following year.

Currently, Scott Quessenberry wears No. 61 for L.A. and could look to Hardwick for some inspiration. After serving primarily as a backup for his first season following the Chargers selecting him in Round 5 of the 2018 draft, Quessenberry got the nod as a starter over the second half of 2019 following a neck injury to the starter, Mike Pouncey.

Pouncey will is slated to regain his starting role this season, so it’s not likely Quessenberry winds up being the player capable of stealing this accolade from Hardwick anytime soon.

Next. 30 greatest players in Chargers franchise history

In the meantime, relish in Hardwick’s tenure with Los Angeles, as he was one of the most serviceable linemen in team history.