Jermarcus “Yoshi” Hardrick walked out of his final senior seminar, Sociology 495, having written his last paper.
Twenty pages. He’d done it. He’d become the first person in his family — on either side — to graduate from college.
Almost eight years after he finished his playing career at NU — he’s now an offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League — Hardrick became one 70 Husker student-athletes to get their diploma Saturday.
As he left that sociology class, Hardrick made calls to the two men who told him he’d become a college graduate one day. One of them was his former coach at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, Jeff Sims, himself a first-generation graduate. The other was to Dennis Leblanc, NU’s executive associate athletic director for academics, who worked with the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Hardrick during the CFL offseasons to complete his degree.
Both men cried on the phone, Hardrick said. It was a long way from South Panola High School in Mississippi, where Hardrick had grown up without a father, and his mom, Delores, worked overnights as a CNA, made her sons breakfast, went to bed, made them dinner, and then went back to work.
A moment like this cemented the future of Hardrick’s three children. Their father was a college graduate. They’d know him as that, and expect the same of themselves. He’d changed a whole generation of lives, Sims told him.
Most of his family had never seen where he played college football. When Hardrick graduated, they drove up. Compared to tiny Courtland, Mississippi, where it’s all gravel roads, Lincoln was the big city.
“Like New York to them,” Hardrick said.