Outside the Lines... Football days carried over to business world
Former Silver Streak Hardges credits Carder and several others
By Jeff Holt
Published March 4, 2021 in The Burg
They couldn't be any more different.
Tom Carder is from Abingdon and Jarvis Hardges is from Galesburg. Tom played on the defensive line in football at 6-foot-8 and close to 350 pounds. Jarvis often played the skill positions on offense as a runningback and wide receiver, and then he shined as a kick returner and a punt returner at about 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds.
Carder is currently a Sales Manager at Galesburg Toyota with a nice office and he always has a tie on. Hardges seldom wears a tie and is on the front lines selling cars.
But it was on the football field that a special bond formed life with Carder and Hardges. They both played semi-pro football for a season with the Mid-State Steel football team (part of the Mid States Football League) in 2010.
They've been good friends for about 12 years now.
"Playing football with Jarvis was an experience to say the least," said Carder. "Jarvis has always been an athlete, but on the football field Jarvis was an animal. Jarvis always had one of the biggest hearts on the team. He was a team player. If you ask Jarvis what position he played on the team, the correct answer is ... all of them! He could play any position from runningback to defensive lineman."
Continued Carder, "Having played Semi-Pro football with Jarvis and now working side by side with him at Galesburg Toyota, there is no difference in the two. We were on the same team then and we are on the same team now. Jarvis and I often joke about feeling like Al Bundy from 'Married with Children' always telling our football stories. He tells the story about the time he got to play defensive lineman and I always tell the story about the time I got to play fullback for one play. It may have only been one play, but I scored the touchdown from the 5-yard line. Whether it's playing football with Jarvis, or working side-by-side with him at work everyday, one thing that you always know is that Jarvis is family. Whether he has known you all of his life or he just met you today, you are family to him. Jarvis is my brother. Blood or not. He will always be my brother."
Hardges, meanwhile, felt even more of a bond because Carder's mom worked with his girlfriend.
"I was selling him cars to start," said Hardges. "We first met he was new on the team and I called him Big Dowddy. He was 18 years old and 6-7 and 400-some pounds. His mom and my mom worked together and we started riding to games and practices. His nickname for me is Jarvy Jarv."
Hardges and his days of growing up in Galesburg.
Jarvis quickly credits former Lombard Junior High basketball coach Phil Erickson as being his most influential teacher and/or coach of his life. Erickson coached Lombard basketball for close to 40 years.
"He was the first person to let me know that I could be more than just a product of my environment," said Hardges, a 1996 graduate of Galesburg High School.
Not far behind was Galesburg native Donald "Duck" Brannon who was like a father figure to him.
"I can't separate them. I can't put one above the other," he said. "Phil opened my eyes. (I) grew up with my mother and two sisters, and got to know who God is for sure. So many influential people in my life to help me get in the right direction."
His sister, Chanda, went to state in track at GHS and played basketball. She even played flag football at GHS. His other sister, Candis, also played basketball (both sisters wore No. 22 like Jarvis).
His cousin, Reticia, also went to state in track at GHS and earned a scholarship to Illinois State Unviersity.
Hardges just had so many great people in his life who have helped him along the way.
His uncle, Jimmy Dickerson, was one of his most influential coaches in the JFL early on as with Dwight Wight. "He (Jimmy) also broke records at the high school," said Hardges.
His cousin, Elmer Dickerson, is well-known for his dominance on the basketball court.
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Back in 1994, Hardges had an 81-yard touchdown reception against Peoria Central that ranked seventh in the GHS football record book.
"My cousin (Jeremy) was my quarterback," he said. "We both played JFL together - he was on the Packers and I was on the Raiders. We both went to Lombard and then the high school."
On the basketball court, Hardges said that former Silver Streak Earl Strickland "took him under his wing" to learn the game and that he always looked up to a former teammate of his in the late Jason Lewis.
The GHS sophomore basketball team he played on nearly went undefeated at 21-1 with ones like Robby Dunn in the low post. Hardges said that team was known for its "tenacious defense" with some great shooters like Chris Hunnigan and Brad Davis. He said Dunn could do it all on the basketball court at 6-8 - dunk, shoot free throws, block shots, etc.
"One of the best," said Hardges, of Dunn. "We called him Robby Dunk. He was aggressive and had no fear. He had an all-around
game - could shoot free throws, three pointers, hook shots, tip dunks. He was really talented and smart. We were a band of brothers."
Hardges had "crazy hops" in basketball at just 5-10 with a vertical of close to 50 inches and he went on to play at Carl Sandburg College for Mike Bailey. Hardges still remembers a dunk attempt he had right before the season started on an alley-oop pass.
"My buddy Wesley McGruder threw me an alley-oop. I went up to grab it and I didn't know what happened," he said. "The coach was screaming and I thought someone tried to hurt me. I hit my eye on the rim. They had to bandage me up."
Ending note: It's little stories like those that hold a special place in the heart of Hardges.
He did make First Team All-Conference for Mid-State Steel as a punt returner and Second Team as a kick returner. Then, he even traveled to get a tryout with the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League. Carder, meanwhile, had his football career slowed down by an injury. Through it all, they are still remain great friends.
Pro Team: Bears
Pro Athlete: Michael Jordan and Walter Payton
Pro Stadium to watch a game: Soldier Field
Music band or singer: H-Town, Boyz II Men, SiIk.
Galesburg restaurant: Cherry Street at its height
TV Show: Martin Lawrence and the Cosby Show
Comedian: Kevin Hart; Martin Lawrence and Bill Cosby
Movie: The 10 Commandments
Actor: Wesley Snipes or Denzel Washington