ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Carroll Hardy, the Broncos' former personnel executive who was instrumental in building the team's Orange Crush defense, has passed away.
He was 87 years old.
Hardy worked for more than two decades in the Broncos' front office and helped assemble the team's dominant defense that included Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Louis Wright, Lyle Alzado and Barney Chavous. Behind the team's defense, the Broncos won their first division title and advanced to their first ever Super Bowl in 1977. Allowing 20 points just once in the 1977 regular season, the Broncos earned a 12-2 record and a trip to Super Bowl XII.
He served in a variety of roles during his career with the Broncos, including coordinator of college scouting, scouting director, director of player personnel and assistant general manager. He earned the assistant GM title in 1981 and also helped assemble the Broncos' 1986 and 1987 Super Bowl teams. Hardy retired from his role with the Broncos in 1987 and spent the later part of his life living in Colorado.
Hardy joined the Broncos following a professional baseball career with the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Houston Colt .45s (now named the Astros) and the Minnesota Twins. While with the Red Sox, Hardy became the only player to ever pinch-hit for Ted Williams. He also pinch-hit for Carl Yastrzemski in Boston and for Roger Maris in Cleveland.
"I'd like to have people remember me for hitting 400 home runs and a lifetime batting average of .305, but I didn't do that," Hardy once told the Denver Post. "But it's not bad being remembered as the only man to ever pinch-hit for Ted Williams."
Before his baseball career, Hardy attended the University of Colorado, where he participated in football, baseball and track and field. He earned 10 varsity letters in football, baseball and track, which is the most by any athlete in Colorado's history. Hardy was named an honorable mention All-American in football in 1953 and 1954, and his 6.87 yards per carry average remains the best in school history among players with at least 60 carries. Hardy also led the nation in kickoff return average in 1952.
He did more than contribute on offense. Hardy recorded career six interceptions and led the nation in kickoff return average in 1952. His 3,146 all-purpose yards rank 11th in Colorado history.
"I had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Carroll several times – what a wonderful man and a true icon in the state," CU athletic director Rick George said in a statement. "His list of accomplishments in his lifetime and the people he touched are really second-to-none. We have lost a great Buffalo."
On the baseball diamond, Hardy was the school's all-time career batting average leader for players with at least 200 at bats.
He was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 1955 NFL Draft and caught 12 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns for the 49ers in his first season. Hardy averaged a team-best 28.2 yards per reception as one of quarterback Y.A. Tittle's favorite targets.
Hardy then joined the U.S. Army for a two-year stint before transitioning to professional baseball.
He eventually arrived in Denver after the Red Sox traded him to the Colt .45s in 1963. After a stint with Houston's minor-league team in Oklahoma City, Hardy was dealt to the Twins, who then relegated him to their Triple-A affiliate, the Denver Bears. While in Denver, Hardy helped the Broncos' scouting department on a part-time basis in the offseason.
Hardy was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1979, the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Colorado University's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002. Only two football players preceded Hardy being inducted into CU's Hall of Fame, and Hardy was previously named to the school's All-Century Football Team in 1989.
He is survived by his wife, Janice Mitchell; son, Jay; and daughters Jill and Lisa.