While he doesn’t quite have the raw speed of Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman can certainly hold his own. The 5’10,” 187-pound wideout ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Combine. Now those wheels seem to have caught the attention of an NFL receiving legend.
On Thursday morning, former Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots WR Chad Johnson, previously known as Chad Ochocinco, took to Twitter to challenge the Chiefs rookie receiver to a foot race.
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What sparked the tweet is unclear, but it’s not the first time Johnson has issued a friendly challenge to Hardman. Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy previously made a direct comparison between the Georgia product and the retired NFL star in the team’s “The Franchise” docuseries following Kansas City’s 56th overall selection of Hardman in the 2019 NFL Draft.
“This kid reminds me of Chad Johnson when he came out,” Bieniemy said back in May.
Bieniemy’s comparison did not go unnoticed by Johnson, who promptly offered to “test his feet” in a 1-on-1 coverage battle.
When asked about his comments the next day, Bieniemy acknowledged their significance and further backed Hardman’s makeup.
“I think that’s a tremendous height to compare him to,” Bieniemy said. “But I will say this: Mecole is doing a heck of a job. He’s a smart, intelligent kid.”
Through his first 10 NFL games (including four starts), Hardman hauled in 21 receptions for 437 yards and five touchdowns, including a season-long 83-yarder versus Baltimore in Week 3. The speedster has also carved out a role on special teams and has contributed an additional 414 kick return yards (23.0 yards/return) and 96 punt return yards (16.0 yards/return) this year.
He has a ways to go to catch Johnson, who has previously campaigned for his own Hall of Fame candidacy. The 11-year veteran racked up 766 catches for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns during his stints with the Bengals and Patriots.
The race is on?
The six-time Pro Bowler, who clocked a 4.57-second 40-yard dash time at the 2001 NFL Combine, has never been shy about voicing his opinions or competing with others on Twitter. And it didn’t take long for Hardman to reply to this particularly intriguing offer from Johnson.
When asked by the media about the idea of racing the former Bengals star, the 21-year-old receiver put the ball back in Johnson’s court.
“That’s up to Chad. That’s up to him,” Hardman said on Thursday. “I’m down for it, we can do it. Definitely after the season, but if he wants to race, he can come and get his work.”
Fans holding out hope for a scheduled race date will have to wait until the offseason. The AFC West-leading Chiefs (6-4) are currently fighting their way towards what the team and its fans hope is another deep playoff run.
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