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The skyline was far different than their Courtland, Mississippi, home as Jermarcus Hardrick entered Lincoln with his mother, Delores.

Hardrick was a junior college transfer from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas in 2010, looking to pursue his football career at Nebraska.

“The first time I brought my mom up, she thought it was New York City,” Hardrick said. “That will basically tell you where I am from.

“Growing up in Mississippi, I come from a country town that had no red lights,” said Hardrick, whose nickname "Yoshi" fits with older brother Mario's given name. “When I first got to Nebraska, I was getting my car towed because I didn't know what a parking meter was.”

His time in Lincoln, which is still his home in the offseason, has led him to his fourth season in the Canadian Football League and his second year with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Hardrick's success at Nebraska has carried over to the CFL, where he starts on the offensive line for the Blue Bombers. Knowing his future is bright, it is the past Hardrick always reflects on.

“(Nebraska) gave me a chance to be successful,” he said. “Even when I wasn't doing the right things they pushed, making sure I was doing the right things, they made sure I was walking to class to get the grades I needed. They made sure I wasn't going to make any bad decisions. Even if coach Bo (Pelini) had to call or text me to make sure I was going to sleep.”

Everything seemed to change in an instant when Hardrick entered Lincoln. Looking back, he recalls one of the first times he remembers his mother telling him she loved him as he left for college. She had said it before, but that one time, that instant, really stuck with Hardrick.

Hardrick grew up without a father — he left soon after Hardrick was born. Many people Hardrick knew ended up in jail or dead.

Lincoln was also a place where Hardrick could make a life and get away from the streets in Batesville, Mississippi, where Hardrick attended high school.

“It was basically black or white,” he said. “I don't know if racism is the right word, but we are a couple years behind in the South still.

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“It was hard for me to trust somebody with a different race card. When I got to Nebraska, that wasn't the case.”

From then on, Hardrick found the support he had longed for. The father figure — not just in Pelini but the state of Nebraska.

Pelini was a big believer in Hardrick and was not afraid to push him toward the potential he could see in him.

“I remember one of the first things when I first met Coach Bo, and he said 'You are going to be a college graduate,'" Hardrick said. "I had never heard that in my entire life.

“Bo was so hard on me, but at the end of the day he always called, sent a text or grabbed me off to the side and told me he loved me. That is something you want. You want someone to be hard on you and tell you the truth for your best interests."

While at Nebraska, Hardrick also met his wife, Samantha (Morabe) Hardrick, who ran track and cross country for the Huskers.

“I'm happily married for five years, we have three kids,” Hardrick said. “I just don't see me being this far in my life or that successful without Nebraska. If I would have went back home or down south, I could have easily got around the wrong crowd or back into the swing of things I was doing in high school.”

After his football career ends, Hardrick hopes to coach and be that figure he saw in Nebraska to kids like him growing up.

Since his days with the Huskers, Hardrick has spent time with different pro teams in the NFL and the CFL but has found a solid foundation with the Blue Bombers. He has played in 18 games for Winnipeg, helping the Blue Bombers to the West semifinal in 2016.

Winnipeg is 1-1 in 2017.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or tgray@journalstar.com.

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