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Brandon Hardin was picked by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 2012 draft. A product of Oregon State, Hardin, who played cornerback in college, now lines up at safety for the Monsters of the Midway.
Hardin talks with Bear Report about the transition into a new league, as well as a new position.
"It's great to be here. I'm having so much fun, doing well so far and learning a ton of stuff. I've been so eager to return to football and actually, the switch from cornerback to safety isn't as difficult as I thought it could be. You are using some of the same techniques and the overall approach is similar.
"It's always a challenge coming into a new system and being a rookie, it can get hard. Definitely a challenge but I do feel I am doing well so far in terms of the adjustments I've had to make.
"My advantage, I think, is that I came to the Bears as a clean slate. Never having played safety before, I didn't have any bad habits built up for that position. My coach can work with me and teach me the way he wants me to play. That's a very good thing because it's easier to learn good habits from the beginning rather than struggle to erase any bad habits you might have developed over time.
"There's so much learning going on as a rookie. You have to learn about the setup in the building, you need to become comfortable in a new system, you have to meet the other players, meet the coaches, learn the playbook, go to meetings. It's a whirlwind of activity and it can get overwhelming at times. What I am trying to do is to enjoy every aspect of this experience and succeed as best I can during this learning process. Really when you think about it, how great is this experience? It's my dream come true.
"One of the first things I noticed once the vets came to the minicamp was the speed difference in this game as compared to the college game. You have to be on your toes all the time at the professional level or the offensive guys are going to go right past you. You need to get to the point where you react rather than think about things. That's my job right now.
"Another difference of course is the level of competition here. Everybody has a lot on the line, as this is now our job. We all want to do well and there is definitely pressure to do well quickly.
"I went to Oregon State and they have many good players in that conference. However, compared to the NFL, there is a huge difference as far as who and what you are going up against. Everybody here is a great athlete. I surprised myself in the fact that I am able to keep up with some of these guys.
"I missed the past year of college football due to injury and in a way, that break has been good for me. I come in now with such an appreciation for the game and for the chance to be a part of it. Physically I am completely healed and ready to go. Mentally, I want this so badly. I am willing to work and to do what is required to be successful in this league. I love every minute of this. I look around me and think how much I love being out here at practice."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.